Are annual gynecological exams really necessary?
Many women become filled with anxiety at the thought of scheduling their annual exam. This is no doubt due to the dreaded pelvic exam and pap test. The short visits can feel so impersonal and mechanical. Also, many women may have heard conflicting information about the necessity of the annual exam.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), an annual Well-Woman is recommended for all women, starting at the age of 13.
But, an annual exam does not necessary mean that a pelvic exam or pap test are always needed.
Let me explain.
An annual exam has many components other than the pelvic exam including the following (from ACOG):
Discussion of birth control options
Cancer risk assessment
General health screening
Sexually transmitted infections
Concerns about sex
Issues with your menstrual cycle
Menopause symptom help, urinary incontinence help, infertility help, relationship problems
So, how often are the pelvic exam and pap test needed?
Pelvic exam: frequency depends on the individual. Symptoms, medical history, family history, and family history will help your doctor decide how often. The pelvic exam is often not recommended more frequently than 3-5 years.
Pap test: every 3-5 years from the ages of 21-65 years old, depending on whether co-testing for HPV is performed.
Exceptions to the above: If you have had a prior positive pap or HPV test, intervals of anywhere from 4-12 months may be recommended.
Some women feel more comfortable having the pap and HPV testing done annually and we are glad to honor that request.
And what is the purpose of the pelvic exam?
The reason for the pelvic exam is is to check for the health of the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. The uterus and ovaries are palpated both internally and externally to check for any abnormalities. A speculum may be inserted for inspection of the vagina and cervix. At this point, a pap sample (screening for cervical cancer), and samples for HPV and STI testing can easily be collected.
And, why is the pap test important?
It comes down to early cancer detection. According to the CDC, cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Since women have been getting regular pap tests, the number of cases of cervical cancer, and the number of deaths have decreased significantly. This has been an extremely positive intervention in conventional medicine.
How is a Well Woman Visit at Blue Heron Natural Medicine in Longmont, Colorado?
As you can see from the above list of what an annual exam should entail, there is a lot to be covered in a matter of 20-30-minutes in the conventional paradigm. Unfortunately, half of this time is often spent with the Medical Assistant, and many of these important components do not get covered.
At BHNM, the Well-Woman Visit is a full hour, 100% of that time spent with a Naturopathic Doctor. Naturopathic Doctor’s are experts in prevention, which is the goal of the Well-Woman Visit.
Whether you are due for your pelvic exam and/or pap test or not, you can be assured that this hour will be productive. As part of the visit, Dr. April will even do a bioenergetic food intolerance method to help you determine which foods you don't digest well. This visit is all about prevention, right?
At BHNM in Longmont, Colorado, we recognize the Well Woman Visit as an important part of your self care that day. You will be offered a cup of house-blended herbal tea and we welcome you to use the Biomat before or after your visit to rejuvenate tired and achy muscles, improve circulation, and energetically rebalance. We aim to treat you like a queen during this important self care day.
Even if you are regularly seeing a Naturopathic Doctor, an annual Well-Woman Visit is an important part of your health care to zoom out a bit, look at the big picture of your overall health and risk factors, and leave with a targeted action plan for your health.
Schedule your Well Woman Visit with Dr. April in Longmont, Colorado today!