While visiting your OBGYN may not be high on your list of favorite things to do, it’s one of the most important visits you can make for your long-term health. Your annual women’s wellness exam is key to protecting yourself when it comes to various cancers and other health issues. Early intervention can often make all the difference when dealing with serious illnesses. Services like a breast exam and pap smear can tell you if something isn’t right long before things get serious enough to produce symptoms that you can’t ignore. Preventative care is the key to a long, healthy life.
The importance of early intervention
It isn’t uncommon at all to see stories where a routine annual exam actually saved a woman’s life. Even if you’re in great health, you never know when something abnormal will be found. Consider that most cancers don’t show drastic “classic” symptoms until they are relatively advanced and will require much more intensive treatment to try and combat. A simple pap smear can show that something is wrong at the cellular level, before the presence of tumors or bleeding begin to tell the story.
While much of the focus is on the pelvic exam, your breast exam is just as important. With breast cancer numbers rising globally, the key to maximizing your chances of recovery is early intervention. The more advanced the disease becomes, the fewer the options for treatment and less of a chance of success. If you get a thorough examination yearly, along with performing regular self-checks, you reduce the chances of getting caught by surprise with a late-stage illness.
What happens during your wellness exam?
During your women’s wellness exam, a variety of things will happen in order to get a complete picture of your health. Generally speaking, the exam can be broken down into four parts which are health history, physical exam, clinical breast exam, and pelvic exam. Here is what to expect for each of these four parts of your annual women’s wellness exam.
If this is your first visit to your OBGYN, this part can be relatively long. On return visits, this initial step won’t need to be nearly as extensive. Assuming this is your first visit, though, your health history will consist of a series of questions in order to get to know you and get a general sense of your health up until now. Questions pertaining to your diet, exercise, and smoking habits will be asked. You’ll also be asked a series of questions regarding pregnancy including whether you’ve ever been pregnant and experienced complications or if you plan on becoming pregnant in the near future. Expect other general health questions like if you’re suffering with any conditions now and if you’re up to date on vaccines.
The physical exam is very similar to the one you would receive at your family doctor’s office. Your blood pressure will get checked along with weight measurements. The general health of your heart and lungs will also be evaluated. They physical exam can range in depth depending on the doctor. Ultimately, the point is to get a general sense of your overall health before moving onto the other exams.
Clinical breast exam
One of the two major, specialized exams that will be performed by your gynecologist, the clinical breast exam is of course very important as it can catch warning signs of breast cancer. Your doctor will exam the breasts for signs of disease including dimpling, nipple inversion, discoloration (reddening), rash, swelling, soreness, and lumps/thickening of the tissue. This is done both sitting up and lying down to ensure the exam is thorough. You’ll also be encouraged to keep up with your monthly self-exams, even if nothing is found during your visit.
The pelvic exam can look different depending on your age. The initial part is the same for everyone. You’ll lie on your back with your legs supported so your doctor can do a visual examination of the genitalia before the manual exam of the vagina and pelvic area. A speculum will be used in order to evaluate the vaginal walls and the cervix. It’s at this point where the pap smear may also take place if you are at an age where your gynecologist recommends one. You may also be asked questions regarding menstruation, menopause, and other topics that are age specific.
It is strongly recommended that you are examined annually because it can make the difference between catching a serious problem early or having to undergo treatment when it’s already advanced. Book an appointment online with us today to set up your exam. The team at OBGYN Care of Houston is here to provide you with the care you need so you can lead a healthy life.