Annual Exam and Pap Test
Taking care of your reproductive health begins with healthy practices such as a proper diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting annual exams. Annual exams are scheduled with a gynecologist to determine the state of your reproductive organs. At Gyn LA in Los Angeles, we are dedicated to improving the reproductive health of women by checking for changes that may indicate disease through annual exams and Pap tests.
Why Should You Take Care Of Your Reproductive System?
Your reproductive health is as important as your physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, it is necessary to take charge, engage actively in catching diseases early, and prevent the occurrence of other diseases.
The embarrassment and hush surrounding reproductive health discourage women from getting checked for their health regularly. It is essential to take the initiative of your health and other girls or women, providing them with education on why they need to care for their reproductive health.
Women are exposed to several reproductive health problems such as fibroids, cancer, and pelvic pain, menstrual, and menopausal issues. These problems, if not diagnosed and treated early, can affect the quality of your life. For this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) encourages women 21 and older to go through annual pelvic exams.
As a parent, you should take your 13-15-year-old daughter with you for their first gynecologic visit. Teaching them early on the importance of their reproductive health will keep them informed about their bodies, how they function, and to detect unusual changes.
The gynecologist you choose can have a great impact on your experience and the diagnosis you receive. Generally, you need to determine whether you are comfortable with a woman or a man examining you. If you have a daughter, consider their preferences as well.
Make sure you find one who is qualified and licensed to operate as a gynecologist. You can ask your friends and family for their recommendations.
The ACOG encourages women aged 21 and over to have annual exams to check the health of their reproductive systems. Annual gynecology exams can fill you with anxiety, especially if this is your first visit. You need to prepare both physically and emotionally to handle the exam.
If you are going for your first visit, you are likely to be unaware, anxious, and sometimes embarrassed about what happens during the exam. Gynecology exams are meant to examine the well being both on the external and internal reproductive system.
Your gynecologist understands your anxiety, especially during your first visit. Therefore, he or she will take the time to make sure you are comfortable. They will converse with you to ease your tension and explain what they will be doing, why it is important, what they find, and what it means for your health.
On your first visit, your gynecologist will take your history and family history. This will include information about:
- Your sexual activities to determine whether there may be risks to your reproductive health
- Your menstrual period including any irregularities and changes
- Symptoms you are experiencing in the reproductive organs including the breasts and pelvic region
- Your vital information such as blood pressure, weight, and height
- Birth control
- Pregnancy or whether you are trying to get pregnant
- Your lifestyle including diet and exercise
These details are crucial in helping the gynecologist to select the best care that fits your needs. It also forms a basis for identifying conditions that you are at risk for, mainly due to heredity issues.
You can ask your gynecologist questions about issues you are concerned about concerning your reproductive health. These may include pain during sex, urine and fecal incontinence, birth control, pregnancy, and STIs and STDs. Expressing your concern will provide additional information that could help in diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of certain conditions.
Taking an annual exam at any age is important because:
- It helps in determining whether your organs are developing normally (for teenagers)
- It is easier to detect precancers or cancer in its early stage
- You receive age-appropriate immunizations for various conditions. The most common vaccination is the HPV vaccine which helps in reducing the occurrence of cervical cancer
- General reproductive care
An annual gynecological exam can involve several activities, including:
- Pelvic Exam
A pelvic exam is a regular part of your annual gynecological visits typically performed on sexually active women or those aged 21 and over. Younger women who are not sexually active can have a pelvic exam if:
- They experience unexplained pain in the belly
- They have irritation in the vulva
- They have not had periods by 15 years or three years after their breast development began
- They experience vaginal bleeding that lasts more than ten days
Before the pelvic exam begins, you will have a chat with your gynecologist after which you will be left to change into the gown provided.
Once you are comfortable and ready to start the exam, your gynecologist will require you to lie down with your feet in stirrups.
He or she will first examine the vulva and external vagina to determine whether there are any abnormalities or unusual symptoms. They may check for abnormal discharge, cysts, irritation, and warts.
He or she will then insert a speculum into your vagina to open it up so that they check the inside of the vagina. The speculum is made from metal or plastic. The doctor will lubricate it, so it slides easily into the vagina. The insertion may feel uncomfortable or weird but should not be painful.
You can view your cervix as the exam goes on through a mirror. The exam involves checking for any abnormalities or symptoms of disease on your ovaries, bladder, fallopian tubes, rectum, uterus, vagina, cervix, and vulva. Depending on what the doctor sees, they may require additional testing.
The doctor may also insert one or two gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina to check for any lumps or abnormalities in the vagina. The doctor presses on your lower abdomen while feeling the inside of the vagina. During the bimanual test, they will check the size, shape, and location of your uterus, whether there are pain or tenderness and the presence of tumors, lumps or enlarged fallopian tubes and ovaries.
In some cases, the doctor may conduct a rectovaginal exam where he or she inserts one finger into the vagina and another into the rectum. The test is not commonly done unless you have gastrointestinal issues such as pain or abnormal bleeding, to obtain a fecal blood sample, to check whether you have a tilted pelvis and to identify abnormalities with the ovaries.
You should not engage in sex (vaginal or anal), touching or inserting anything into the vagina for at least 24 hours before a pelvic exam. You should also reschedule your appointment if you are on your period.
- Pap Test
A Pap test is part of the pelvic exam meant to screen for cervical cancer. While the speculum is still in your vagina, the doctor will insert an extended swab to collect some tissue from your cervix to check for precancer and cancer cells.
You will receive a Pap smear test if you are sexually active. The HPV virus responsible for cervical cancer is usually transmitted through sex; therefore, only sexually active women have an increased risk of cervical cancer.
You should have a Pap test every three years until you are 65 years or until the doctor advises you otherwise. Your gynecologist can recommend having more Pap tests if:
- You had a diagnosis of cervical cancer
- You had a negative pap smear (precancer cells were present)
- You were exposed to DES before birth
- You have HIV infection
- You have a weakened immune system
- You smoke or used to smoke
It is advisable to have regular Pap tests since your reproductive system is changing continually. New cells grow and replace the old ones. In this normal cycle, abnormal cells may develop. When caught early, you can start treatment and increase the chances of recovery.
Sometimes, a Pap test can show a false-negative test. This means that the test results indicate that you do not have abnormal cells when they are present. A false negative could occur due to a few abnormal cells, inadequate samples, or an obstruction blocking the abnormal cells. Therefore, you need to get checked regularly to correct errors from such factors.
You can stop having a pap test if you had a total hysterectomy performed for a non-cancerous condition or if you are 65 and have had negative Pap test results.
The doctor uses a small brush-like or flat tool to collect a sample of the tissue around the cervix. The process should not be painful. After collecting the cervical cells, your doctor sends them to the lab for testing. The results may take a few days.
Once tested, your tests will be either normal or abnormal. Normal results indicate that there are no cancer or precancerous cells on your cervix.
Abnormal results do not mean you have cervical cancer. The nature and abnormalities of the cells will determine the next steps. The doctor can call you for retesting or further evaluation if:
- The cells have a slight abnormality whose changes do not suggest precancer cells. The doctor may need to check whether there are high-risk viruses that increase the chances of cancer developing.
- The cells collected may be precancerous. Precancer cells have a chance of developing into cancer given their size, shape, and characteristics.
- The cells that produce cervical mucus appear to be slightly abnormal. Your doctor will require further testing to determine whether they are cancerous.
- The collected cells appear so abnormal that it is highly likely that they have cancer
After receiving abnormal results, your doctor will schedule an appointment shortly. During the visit, the doctor will perform a colposcopy to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva. They will also collect a sample of the abnormal cells for analysis and diagnosis.
You can have an abnormal result for a variety of reasons, including:
- Yeast infection
- Recent sexual activity
If the cells turn out to be cancerous, your gynecologist will advise you on the available treatment options.
If you have questions about the results, you need to express your concerns to the doctor. Your doctor will answer your questions to clear any doubts and uncertainties you have.
- Breast Exam
While lying on the examination table, your doctor will perform a breast exam in an attempt to check for breast cancer. Breast cancer screenings are important and may be crucial for people with a family history of breast cancer.
The doctor will ask you to put an arm behind your head and will feel the breasts for changes in symmetry, size and shape, rashes, redness or dimpling on the skin, and lumps in the breasts and armpit region. The doctor may press the nipple area to check for any discharge. If there is discharge, he or she will collect a sample for testing and analysis.
The doctor will also advise you on how to do a self-exam. Self-exams are more regular than exams by the physician. You are more likely to pick on abnormalities or unusual changes with the breasts sooner.
The results of the breast exam will determine whether there are other tests and examinations required, particularly if the doctor notices any abnormalities.
Once the doctor completes the exam, they will advise you on the best care practices to safeguard your reproductive health. They can also express concern over the state of your general health and its impact on your reproductive health.
During the visit, your doctor will advise you on birth control options and discuss which option is the best for you.
Find A Gynecologist Near Me
Finding a gynecologist can be a challenge, especially since you will be trusting them with the most intimate parts of your body. At Gyn LA in Los Angeles, we understand and appreciate the trust you place in us. Therefore, we strive to offer quality healthcare for women of all ages. Our team consists of highly trained and experienced gynecologists who are experts in various gynecological treatments. You can reach us at 310-375-8446 to schedule an apointment with our team.