Each year in the United States, 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 1 in 3 female cancer cases are breast cancer. Both of these cancers can be caught in their early stages through an annual well-woman exam.
At Women’s Specialty Care, we want to dive deeper and inform you of the ins and outs of a well-woman exam and why they’re so important to get every single year.
A well-woman exam is a check-up you receive at a gynecologist’s office for preventative care and to assess different areas of your health as a female.
These exams provide services like vaccines, screenings, and education on how to best take care of your specific sexual and reproductive health needs. Your provider will document your health history, provide a physical exam, and help you set any health goals.
What your exam entails will vary depending on your age and family health history, but it should consist of at least one or all of the following procedures:
During a pelvic exam, your provider examines your reproductive organs, which includes your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. You should receive a pelvic exam every year after turning 21 or after becoming sexually active.
Pelvic exams are vital for women’s health since they screen for cancer, any abnormalities, and STIs. Your provider is able to look for anything concerning through visual and manual exams or with Pap smears and HPV tests.
Pap smears and HPV tests are the best ways to screen for cervical cancer since this type of cancer doesn’t show symptoms in the early stages.
During your visit, you also receive a breast exam. Your provider looks for any unusual lumps or swollen lymph nodes. It’s important to speak up if you’ve noticed any changes to your breasts recently. Receiving clinical breast exams regularly is recommended starting at age 20.
Breast exams are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early. The earlier the signs of cancer are found, the easier the cancer is to treat. Research shows that if breast cancer is detected early, the relative five-year survival rate is 99%.
Annual well-woman visits are the time and place to speak up about birth control. Talk with your provider about any concerns you have and if you feel your current method is working well for you or needs to be changed.
As you approach menopause, it’s especially important to be proactive about using contraceptives since your periods become irregular, and it’s harder to tell when you’re ovulating.
It’s important to get a well-woman exam every year for sexual and reproductive wellness. You may need these exams more often if you plan to become pregnant, have a family history of breast or cervical cancer, or have sexual health problems.
To schedule your annual women’s wellness visit, call us at 847-295-0433, or book an appointment online today.