Yearly Well Women Exams
Although all of us seek care from a health care professional when we are ill, there are also many reasons to seek care when we are well. Preventative medicine can aid in keeping us healthy throughout our lives and well women exams are necessary throughout a woman’s lifetime.
Well women exams are recommended to begin yearly at age 18 or when sexual activity begins. Occasionally women under the age of 18 may need to be seen, either in the preteen or early teen years due to other problems related to the onset of their menstrual period. Exams usually consist of a general physical exam including blood pressure and weight measurements. A breast exam along with a pelvic exam and Pap smear are also included in the exam. During this time, counseling about birth control, sexually transmitted disease prevention and instructions about self-breast exams may occur. The exam also gives the physician a chance to evaluate and discuss other health risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, alcohol or drug abuse to screen for or discuss about domestic violence. This is also a convenient time for the patient to bring up any aspect of their life that is relevant to their overall health.
Once the patient has reached the perimenopausal years, counseling about irregular periods, hormone replacement, mammogram recommendations and sexuality may be the focus of the exam.
Finally, once a patient is postmenopausal, the well woman exam is still important, especially breast and pelvic exams, even if a hysterectomy has already been performed. Discussion on prevention of osteoporosis, sexuality and even bladder dysfunction may occur at these visits.
Often, women who have passed menopause and especially if they have had a hysterectomy, feel they no longer need to be seen for a well woman exam. There are many conditions which effect the female genital tract which become much more prominent in the postmenopause age group. Also, while some insurance carriers and Medicare do not cover well woman visits, this does not mean that these visits are not necessary or considered a standard of good medical practice. Most menopausal women should discuss with their health care providers about the interval between well woman exams. We recommend continued yearly exams throughout a woman’s lifetime.
Together as partners with you, we can help you to live a healthy life at any age and deliver the care that you need in a caring and compassionate manner.