Raise your hand if you’ve ever put off a doctor’s appointment. Raise it again if you did it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After an incredibly challenging year, it’s important to still keep tabs on your health and make sure that you get the care you need. Here’s a guide on 3 important OBGYN tests, how often you should get them, and what to expect. P.S., be sure to share this guide with a friend so that they can stay up to date on their health too.
What is a pelvic exam?
A pelvic exam is a routine assessment of your gynecological and reproductive health. Your provider will be screening you for any early signs of ovarian cysts, early-stage cancer, sexually transmitted infections, or noncancerous growths in the uterus. During the test, your Obgyn will do a visual exam, a manual exam, and also may perform a Pap test (we’ll get to that soon!) The Obgyn will use a vaginal speculum to open and hold the vagina walls during the exam. Yes, this sounds scary but don’t worry — while this might be uncomfortable, it should never be painful. The entire exam will last about 10 minutes in total.
How often should I get a pelvic exam?
Annual tests are recommended. Still, the frequency will depend on a few factors, including your medical history, the frequency of pap tests, and your personal preference.
What is a Pap test?
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, screens for cervical cancer and precancers. This test will be performed by your Obgyn during pelvic exams starting at age 21. The test involves your provider collecting a sample of cells from your cervix using a plastic instrument and a small brush. You might feel some discomfort, but this is a quick swab-like test and shouldn’t be painful.
How often should I get a Pap test?
Pap tests only need to be done every 3 years between ages 21-29, as long as the test results are normal. If results are still normal by age 30, your provider may decide to extend the time between Pap testing to every 5 years. Keep in mind that not all providers agree on how often Pap tests should be done, so talk to your primary care provider about what testing cadence is right for you.
What is a breast exam?
Breast exams are extremely important because they can detect early signs of breast cancer. During this test, your provider will check for lumps on your breasts and under-arm areas to check for unusual lumps and bumps. It should only take a few minutes. You’ll feel pressure on the areas that are being examined but it shouldn’t feel painful. Be sure to talk to your primary care provider about any family history of breast cancer.
Should I do a self-breast exam?
New medical consensus suggests that only people who are at a high risk of breast cancer should do routine self-breast exams. For people with average or low risk, self-breast exams have not been found to be particularly effective in detecting breast cancer. Still, there are benefits to doing self-exams such as recognizing what a normal, healthy baseline is and communicating any changes to your primary care provider. It’s best to have a conversation with your primary care provider about what your risks are and if you should do regular self-breast exams or not.
How often should I get a breast exam?
It’s suggested that in your 20s and 30s, you should get breast exams every 1-3 years. At age 40, most people will begin getting annual breast exams. Again, this depends on multiple risk factors and you should feel comfortable having a conversation with your primary care provider to find the best timeline for you.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world, but you should still prioritize your health and wellness. Make sure to get your annual well-woman appointment scheduled and send this to a friend so that they check up on their health too!