Female Annual Wellness Examination, Hysterectomy, and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Women aged 21 years and older should schedule yearly gynecological exams.
During your annual gynecological exam, the doctor visually and manually assesses your reproductive organs. You might have a pelvic exam as part of your regular checkup, or your doctor may recommend a pelvic exam if you have symptoms such as unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic pain.
During a pelvic exam, the doctor checks your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum and pelvis, including your ovaries, for masses, growths or other abnormalities. A Pap smear, which screens for cervical cancer, may be performed during a pelvic exam.
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A Pap smear or Pap test is usually performed every three years in women that have not had a cervical cancer or precancerous cells. A Pap smear is used to detect cervical cancer and is an important component of a woman’s overall health exam.
A Pap smear checks the cervix for abnormal cell changes. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb), which opens into the vagina. Cell changes can develop on the cervix that, if not found and treated, can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can almost always be prevented, and having regular Pap tests is the key.
Most women ages 21 to 65 should get a Pap smear as part of routine health care every three years. Even if you are not currently sexually active, you should still have a Pap smear. Women who have gone through menopause and are younger than 65 still need regular Pap tests.
Women who do not have a cervix, usually because of a hysterectomy, do not need Pap tests. Women ages 65 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal test results in the last 10 years do not need Pap tests.