First Blog- Annual Checkups
My name is Erica and I am writing on behalf of Dr. Paschall’s Office. Today is the first of what we anticipate will be many letters discussing various elements of women’s health. In this article we wanted to focus on getting regular checkups. In future editions we plan on going further in-depth into some of these issues.
Knowing the status of your health can be so important, which is why doctors recommend that you go in every year to have an evaluation. We all know that life happens and it can be easy to forget when you are healthy and fit to go to the doctor. Visiting your OBGYN (obstetrician and gynecologist) on a regular basis has many added bonuses for women of all ages. But why once a year? Well the American College of Obstetrics suggests that while most women under 30 are at a lesser risk of problems that involve cancer or other abnormalities, it is still wise to get checked just in case there is anything wrong and to get into the habit of doing so regularly.
So what might you expect to find when you walk into your Annual Wellness exam? Most of you might already know this from experience, but your doctor will want to do a general health exam, a breast examination, ask about your general heath, and possibly do some blood work to find out if any adjustments need to be made to your lifestyle. Depending on your age a pelvic exam and a pap smear will also be included. Some sources vary on how often these last two exams are preformed but the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guideline is to have a pelvic exam and pap smear every year after the age of 21.
So what is the difference? Your pap smear is an exam to specifically look for evidence of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, and HPV (human papilloma virus) where as a pelvic exam is looking for other abnormalities and any visible cancerous tissue. Cancer is significantly less likely to develop under the age of 30 but it is still recommended to get a pap smear regularly. Your doctor should be able to track when you need these if you begin to do your checkups regularly. Admittedly it can be confusing to know what your doctor is going to do in your exams even if they tell what they are doing so we can go through the basics here.
In your annual pelvic exam your doctor will be looking for any abnormalities that can develop such as cysts, legions, STDs, vulvic diseases, and skin cancer. This will occur when your genital examination begins. You will be asked to remove your clothes (although this may have already been necessary due to a breast examination). Your doctor will then use a speculum to examine your vaginal walls and cervix. This typically does not hurt though some women may experience slight discomfort but it will help if you relax your muscles.
It is normally during this time that, if it is needed, a pap spear will be conducted by gathering a sample of cells from your cervix. This is done in rather the same way as a cheek swab is conducted except in a different area of the body. Your pap smear will specifically be looking for cervical cancer. While we hope you never have to deal with the possibility we want you to be prepared should you ever have to. Prevention is what we all strive for but when it comes to cancer catching the signs early can make all the difference and that is where your annual visit to the gynaecologist fits in. We urge you to book an appointment with your doctor today and if you happen to be in the Nashville area come see Dr. Paschall at Suite 204, 100 Covey Drive, Franklin, TN.
All the best,