Gynecology exams include an array of evaluations aimed at addressing the unique health needs of women so they can enjoy the best possible health at every age. Exams begin with a personal and family medical history, followed by measurements of weight and blood pressure to look for any potential risk factors for diseases. Patients are asked about any symptoms or concerns they may have, and the clinician performs evaluations of the heart, lungs, ears and throat, as well as a clinical breast exam. A pelvic exam and Pap testing or HPV testing also may be performed, and other lab tests may be ordered. Finally, each patient will receive medical guidance based on her individual needs, risk factors and lifestyle for optimal health and wellness.
Because women's health needs can vary dramatically over time and can be so different from the health needs of men, it's a good idea to have a routine exam every year to look for subtle changes that could indicate a health issue that needs to be addressed.
A Pap test or Pap smear is a simple screening test that looks for abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix, the opening of the uterus. While the patient lies on her back, a lubricated speculum is inserted into the vagina to gently widen the vaginal canal so the cervix can be reached. A long-handled cotton swab is inserted into the vagina and used to remove cells from the surface of the cervix so the cells can be examined under a microscope. Pap tests take just a few moments to perform and they're completely painless.
Sometimes, an abnormal result can mean cancer cells are present, but more often, the result is caused by other issues like HPV infection, yeast infection or even hormonal changes. If a result is abnormal, a second evaluation called a colposcopy may be performed using a special magnifier to get a closer look at the cervix and to take additional samples.
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