Annual Well-Woman Exam

Annual well-woman visits help women stay healthy at every stage of life, from puberty to menopause. At Advantia OB-GYN Shady Grove, women receive comprehensive evaluations and health screenings tailored to their needs as they evolve over time.

What are annual well-woman visits?

Well-woman visits are designed to help women stay healthy through a series of health assessments, tests, and screenings that can be customized for every stage of a woman's life. The term “well-woman” is used to differentiate these visits from visits that are scheduled as a result of ongoing symptoms or illness – so-called “sick visits." In essence, a well-woman visit serves the same purpose as an annual physical, but it is geared toward the specific health needs of women, with assessments evolving as the needs of the patient change. Gynecologists are trained in women's health so they can make sure women receive the most appropriate care adjusted to those changing needs.

What happens during a well-woman visit?

Well-woman visits begin with a complete medical history, including information about any medications or supplements the patient is taking as well as family medical information to help identify risk factors for diseases. Weight and blood pressure are measured, heart and lungs are listened to, and the belly area will be palpated to check for areas of tenderness. A clinical breast exam will be performed, a pelvic exam and Pap test may be performed as well. Blood tests or urine testing may also be ordered. Patients will be provided with guidance about menstruation, menopause, birth control, sexually-transmitted diseases or other issues on an as-needed basis, and screening tests may be recommended depending on the risk factors that are present. Finally, patients will have a chance to discuss their health concerns and treatment. Lifestyle recommendations will also be presented and discussed.

How often do I need to have a Pap test?

The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) guidelines state that most women should have a Pap smear every three years up to age 65, at which point some women may be able to stop having Pap tests. HPV (human papillomavirus) screening should also be scheduled at regular intervals to check for signs of the virus which may increase the risks for some cancers. HPV may be added as an additional screen to further assess risk for cervical cancer. If the HPV test is negative this may lengthen the screening interval to 5 years. Annual exams with your physician are still recommended even though an annual Pap smear may not be needed at your appointment, as the exams are important to preventative care and minimizing health risks.