A Proactive Approach: Annual Well Woman Exams
The gynecology team at University Hospitals are leaders in diagnosing, managing and treating both routine and complex women’s health conditions. Annual well woman exams are one of the best tools we have for identifying potential diseases and medical conditions. During a well woman visit, you should feel comfortable talking with your gynecologist or nurse midwife about a range of topics, including:
- Birth control management
- Family planning
- Female sexual health
- Fertility and reproductive health
- Gynecologic procedures and tests
- Menstrual disorders and conditions
- Planning for pregnancy
- Pregnancy care
- Prevention guidelines for women
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
- Female pelvic health concerns
Early Detection Aids Successful Treatment
Early detection of problems allows doctors to treat the condition early — when treatment is most effective.
Annual gynecology well-visits help keep you at your healthiest – and address worrisome concerns or symptoms that may affect your quality of life. Some of the health screenings that might be conducted or recommended during a comprehensive well woman exam include:
- Blood pressure: A blood pressure screening involves wrapping one arm in an inflatable cuff to measure blood pulsing through the arteries versus the heart at rest. Elevated blood pressure could be a warning sign of heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will advise you in treating high blood pressure with diet, exercise and medication, if needed.
- Blood sugar: Diabetes can be detected by testing a drop of blood obtained from pricking a finger. Women with weight concerns or those with other risk factors may require screenings yearly or more frequently.
- Body weight and BMI: Your doctor may measure your weight and height to calculate a body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat. Your doctor will then address any concerns related to being under- or overweight, and counsel you on healthy diet and exercise. At University Hospitals, we partner with bariatric specialists for patients whose BMI indicates they may be prone to type 2 diabetes.
- Bone density scan: Women age 65 and older are encouraged to get a bone density scan every one to three years. This is an X-ray that allows doctors to determine your 10-year risk of having a fracture due to osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. The recommended frequency of the scan is based on your personal risk factors such as smoking habits, alcohol consumption, history of fracture and other considerations. Doctors may order a scan for younger women with osteoporosis risk factors, too.
- Breast exam: Your gynecologist or nurse midwife will examine your breasts and encourage you to conduct a monthly self breast exam. It’s important to know your breasts and what they feel like so you can call your doctor if something feels abnormal. Yearly mammograms are recommended for women with risk factors for breast cancer and for all women age 40 and older. Annual screenings can catch breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most successful.
- Cholesterol: This blood test checks for high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which raises the risk of heart attack, stroke or atherosclerosis. Not everyone requires a yearly cholesterol check. Women who are obese, diabetic or have high blood pressure should be monitored more frequently.
- Depression screening: During the annual well-woman checkup, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your mental health. That includes any feelings of depression, anxiety, panic disorder or suicidal thoughts.
- Pap test: A Pap smear test is recommended for women beginning at age 21. Cells are collected from the cervix, then analyzed for cervical cancer. After the first Pap smear, the screening is recommended every three years for women with normal results.
- Pelvic exam:Your doctor or nurse midwife checks for abnormal lesions that may cause cervical cancer during a pelvic exam. They also check for abnormal discharge from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). All women should have pelvic exams yearly, starting between the ages of 13 and 15, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Are You Due for an Annual Gynecology Exam?
If it has been over a year since your last well woman appointment schedule an appointment with a University Hospitals doctor or nurse midwife at a convenient location near you.