The annual exam is one of the most important visits for women and serves as a useful tool for cancer screening. All women, regardless of sexual activity, need to be seen for an annual exam no later than age 21. Most women, however, will start to see a gynecologist for an annual visit prior to this time for one reason or another.
Individualized to each patient, the annual exam is mainly comprised of preventative services and screenings. Some of these services which may or may not be done at each annual exam include the following:
- Breast Examination
- Pelvic Examination
- Pap Smear
- Vitamins and Supplements
- Diet and Exercise Discussion
Under the Affordable Care Act, most annual examinations no longer require a co-pay and qualify as preventative services. Many women have other medical concerns that come up during their annual exams i.e. menstrual irregularities, menopausal symptoms, general health concerns, etc.. However, to properly address each medical concern, it is sometimes necessary to return for another visit separately to explore these problems individually and develop a treatment plan of care.
How do I prepare for my Annual Exam?
You can make the most of out your visit if you follow these recommendations:
- Generally you can be seen at any time during your cycle unless your bleeding heavily
- Avoid sexual intercourse or lubricants/suppositories for about 2-3 days prior to your exam
- Fasting for 8 hours prior to your exam may be helpful if you think you need labs drawn
- Have your pharmacy information available and bring all medications/supplements to the visit
- If you are having any medical concerns, it may be better to discuss those in a problem visit first and then schedule the annual as it is sometimes difficult to effectively discuss everything in the same visit