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What to expect: Well Woman Exam

Are you wondering why it's important to visit your OBGYN for an annual well woman exam? Historically, women went to their OBGYN annually for their Pap Smear and they saw this as the test that needed to be checked off their list of things to do. At Comprehensive Women's Care of Columbus, we want you to better understand all the components of the well woman visit and why it is still important for you schedule and keep that appointment each year.

A medical assistant will update your medical history including any medical conditions, surgeries since last visit, menstrual cycle and reproductive health. Your medications will be updated in your chart, adding new ones and removing old medications you no longer take. It is important for our providers to know all your current medications and who prescribes them for you. The medical assistant will also obtain your vital signs, including height, weight, blood pressure.

When your chart has been updated and reviewed, your provider will come in to meet with you for your visit. They will discuss any changes to your family medical history in relation to your increased risk factors. She will also discuss your level of physical activity, tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, assessing for any issues that may require additional counseling or referral to other providers. Our providers will always assess for mental health concerns and any safety issues at home or work . We know that we are often the only medical professional that many women see regularly and we take this opportunity in the safe space of the exam room to identify these issues and refer our patients to the appropriate services.

Here comes the part that can be uncomfortable for some women. Your provider will ask you questions about your sexual practices, including number of partners, pain or other issues with intercourse. It is important that you be honest with them. The counseling that they provide during this visit should be specific to you and not just a routine list of things discussed at every other visit. There is nothing that they don't want to hear. Our providers have seen thousands of women in their years of practice so not much takes them by surprise. Tell your provider if you have concerns about urinary and/or fecal incontinence. There is no better place to discuss these issues than with your women's health provider.

Your physical exam will vary based on your age. Your provider will listen to your heart and lungs with their stethoscope. They will check your thyroid for any abnormalities both by looking at and feeling your neck area. Most visits will include a clinical breast exam where they will carefully exam your breasts for any abnormalities. If they discover something unusual they may send you for an ultrasound or mammogram to rule out anything serious. Any skin abnormalities such as moles or rashes will be evaluated and if necessary, a referral to a dermatologist may be ordered.

Often, the last part of the exam will include a pelvic exam. During this exam they usually insert a speculum into your vagina. They may or may not collect cells from your cervix (you know this as a pap smear) for cervical cancer screening. This will depend on your age and your previous screening test results. They will often collect a vaginal culture to identify any infections that may be present, especially if you have any complaints of itching, burning or discharge. When the speculum is removed the provider will finish the pelvic exam with what they call a bimanual exam. During this part of the exam they are checking your internal organs for any abnormalities, including your cervix, uterus and ovaries. A visual exam will also identify anything suspicious, such as moles, warts or lesions.

You will be given a chance to ask any final questions and if you have them, ask them! If you are due for any preventative screenings, such as mammograms, bone density screening or colorectal screening, we will order these tests and schedule your appointments for you. Your provider may order some blood to be drawn at this time based on your age and other factors.

At this point, your visit should be complete and you will schedule your annual exam for next year. If there is anything to follow up on after this appointment, we will schedule those appointments at this time. Results from testing done will be reported through the patient portal or our nurse will call you to discuss or schedule an appointment with a provider. No need to worry if they want to see you back in the office. We want our patients to be educated and clearly understand anything abnormal and an office visit is the best way to accomplish that goal.

At Comprehensive Women's Care of Columbus we look at each of our patients as a whole woman and want to be certain that they are taking care of their mind and body. Schedule your annual well woman visit today by calling (706) 341-3311.

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