For some women, it is not necessary to get a Pap smear every year, but for others it is, so it is important to talk to your OBGYN about your individual situation regarding how often you should get a Pap smear.
Annual exams are still very important, even if you don’t get a Pap smear every year for a number of reasons which will be discussed below. Your annual exam checks on many more aspects of your health and getting checked out on a yearly basis is key to maintaining your wellness and catching any potential problems before they occur. Dr. Alan Patterson explains more about why you should make your annual exams a high priority.
Screen for diseases
Although the Pap smear screens for cervical abnormalities that may become cancerous, that’s not the only disease we test for during an annual exam.
During an annual exam, you can also screen for the two most common types of sexually transmitted diseases, gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can be run off of your Pap smear. Also, we also check your breasts for any abnormal growths or signs of cancerous changes that might not yet be detectable by you, and your OBGYN can teach you how to do a self breast examination if you do not know how or when to do it. It is adviseable to do a self breast examination each month after your period is over.
We also get an opportunity to meet with you and discuss any new symptoms that may have developed over the course of the past year. When taken alone, you might think that a random new symptom might not be a big deal. But if you mention it to the doctor, sometimes a new symptom can be a sign of a disease that requires more testing.
Besides doing your Pap smear and breast exam, your OBGYN will do a bimanual exam to make sure you do not have any ovarian cysts, or uterus abnormalities such as fibroids. Also, if you are age 50 or over, you have the option of getting a rectal exam and getting yours stool checked which rules out an abnormality such as colon cancer.
Discuss birth control
You may have chosen a method of birth control during a previous visit, but for whatever reason, it’s not working as well for you anymore. Maybe it’s that your schedule has become too busy to remember to take a pill every day or perhaps the side effects of a previous form of birth control have become gradually harder to tolerate.
Checking in once a year about whether or not your birth control method is still working is important. You want to be happy about your contraceptive method, not settling for less. If there’s anything about your birth control that you don’t like, talk to Dr. Patterson. You have lots of available options and a different one might work better for you.
Having an annual OBGYN exam is an important part of maintaining your overall health and wellness. Contact Dr. Alan Patterson today or request an appointment online. Almost every major insurance covers one annual exam with no copay to the patient, so Dr. Patterson feels it is important for you to take advantage of this fact and see him for your annual exam once a year.