During a well woman exam, the doctor will evaluate several very important facets of a woman's overall health. Well woman exams include both a pelvic exam and a clinical breast exam, and they may also be expanded to include testing like mammograms where needed. A well woman exam is usually done on a yearly basis, but this can vary according to patient need. A well woman exam can be an important time to discuss family planning, to test for illness, and to get an overall picture of reproductive health. During the well woman exam, the doctor will ask about menstrual cycle regularity, consumption of alcohol and drugs, smoking habits, and sexual practices to help get a clear idea of every factor that is impacting the patient's health.
A pap smear is often part of a well woman exam. This test screens for cervical cancer. Pap smears are performed by gently scraping cells from the cervix during a pelvic examination. The test is not painful for most women, although minor discomfort may occur during the sample collection. A pap smear is a very important test because it can identify the early signs of cervical cancer long before the patient notices any symptoms. This early identification means that patients can be proactive about treatment, possibly avoiding cancer completely as a result.
A well woman exam is focused on 2 things: The clinical breast exam and the pelvic exam. A check-up may focus on other things and look at the entire body. Many patients find that it is particularly helpful to have their check-ups and well woman exams from the same provider, since that doctor already has all the pertinent background information on the patient.
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