Dr. Johnson Question of the Week: Annual Exams

This topic stems from a conversation that I had with a friend on a different forum. There is a misconception about annual exams that I would like to clear up. Most women equate annual exams (“yearly”) with pap smears. Pap smears have such a negative connotation because of the dreadful speculum exam. Previously pap smears were performed “yearly” with every annual exam. Since we always remember the worst of everything, annual exams became synonymous with pap smears. This is a misconception!

Since we always remember the worst of everything, annual exams became synonymous with pap smears. This is a misconception!

The purpose of an annual exam is to evaluate overall health. Pap smears do not detect ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer. Annual exams are aimed to detect problems early which optimizes prognosis. So as I mentioned previously women <30 y/o should receive pap smears once every 3 years if they have normal results. Women >30y/o should have pap smears once every 5 years if they have normal paps along with negative HPV testing (co-testing). This DOES NOT have any influence on annual exams. Annual exams should be performed ANNUALLY, meaning every year. Now with that being said, annual exams with no pap smear, usually do not require a speculum exam. This is a conversation that you can have with your physician. The uterus, ovaries, and breast are examined digitally (hands), no speculum needed.

 

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