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Beyond the Pap Smear…Your Annual Well Woman Exam

Updated June 2017

Changes in Pap Smear screening guidelines have created confusion for women questioning whether they still need an annual visit with their obstetrician-gynecologist or nurse practitioner.

“The annual well-woman exam is an integral component of a woman’s health,” noted Dr. Rachel Harris, medical director of Southdale ObGyn. “While the guidelines for the frequency of pap smear screening have changed, the value of a yearly visit with your gynecologist has not.” She went on to note. “Breast health, family planning, menstrual issues and preventive health are just a few of the topics that require regular attention.”

Our physicians, midwives and nurse practitioners are the primary health care provider for many of our patients. In that role, we screen for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. We also screen for depression, and discuss healthy lifestyles including BMI, exercise, nutrition and tobacco and alcohol use. We also review immunization recommendations. Most of our patients are healthy, so the annual exam is focused on prevention, and how to work together to keep them healthy. Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer are recommended every three to five years for women ages 21 to 65. Screening is not recommended for women under age 21 or for those over 65 who have had regular screenings and don’t have risk factors. Age-specific topics that may be covered in an annual well-woman exam:

Ages 18-39: birth control, screening of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy planning

Ages 40-64: perimenopause and menopausal concerns, mammography, colon cancer screening

Ages 65 and older: bone density screening, mammography, colon cancer screening, incontinence and pelvic floor issue.

Many insurance plans cover yearly well woman exams. To schedule your annual physical exam, please use our Request an Appointment form or call our office at 952-920-7001.