Regular gynecologist visits and breast exams are of the utmost importance, but they only cover a small portion of your overall health. Any woman over the age of 21 should consider an annual Well Woman Exam. A Well Woman Exam covers the pelvis and breasts, as well as any area related to a woman’s overall wellness, including:
- Heart health
- Brain heath
- Thyroid health
- Condition of your organs, such as the liver and kidneys
- Early identification of cancer
Most women’s health visits begin with a consultation to discuss your current and past health history. Your doctor may ask about any pregnancies you’ve had or plan to have. Eating and exercise routines may also be discussed, along with any negative health habits such as smoking. Your doctor will also review your immunization records to make sure your shots are all up to date.
After the initial consultation, your doctor will likely proceed with a physical examination. In addition to a blood pressure and body mass index test, a women’s health doctor typically studies the following areas:
- Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth
- Thyroid and lymph nodes
- Lungs and heart
- Bones and spine
The purpose of a breast exam during a Well Woman Exam isn’t to replace regular mammogram screenings. It is just another opportunity for your doctor to identify potential problems in your breast tissue.
This exam is a surface inspection performed by hand, where a doctor checks for conditions such as dimpling, nipple inversion, redness, soreness, rashes, or swelling. Your doctor may also feel for any lumps or thickening in the breasts.
During the pelvic exam, your doctor will examine the external and internal parts of the reproductive system like the vulva, labia, the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. Your physician may also perform a pap smear. This is a procedure where a small sample of cells is collected from your cervix. The results of a pap smear are typically sent to a lab for analysis.
For women who have experienced menopause, your doctor may spend some time discussing issues such as bladder function or vaginal dryness. Your doctor may also test your bone density for signs of osteoporosis.
In addition to your physical examination, your doctor may also discuss any emotional challenges you may be dealing with. You may be experiencing stress or depression from internal conditions such as chronic pain or external issues at home or work. At this time, your doctor will likely make recommendations about your diet, including the use of supplements or exercises for managing weight and improving how you feel.