Routine Gynecological Exams
The information we provide on Routine Gynecological Examinations is divided into three sections. You may jump directly to the section you are interested in by clicking on the title of the section.
What is a Pelvic Exam?
During the pelvic exam, your clinician checks your sex organs. These organs are your uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix. Part of your pelvic exam is your Pap Smear Test.
Why do I need a Pelvic Exam?
Having a pelvic exam along with the Pap test is an important part of staying healthy. Even if you feel OK, you should have this exam every year or as often as your clinician recommends. Your pelvic exam will help you take care of any problems before they become serious. For instance, you may have an infection without knowing it, you may need treatment to prevent cancer, you may need care to protect your reproductive health.
What will happen during a Pelvic Exam and Routine Gynecological Exam?
If this is your first exam, or if you feel scared, tell the clinician. Also keep in mind that it is okay and even encouraged to ask questions. You may feel a little uncomfortable, but if you feel any pain, tell the clinician. It helps to relax, try taking slow, deep breaths. Here is what to expect from your Exam:
- First you’ll need to undress and put on a cover. When you lie on the exam table, you will have a sheet to cover your legs.
- Your clinician will check your breasts for any lumps or changes that may lead to cancer. Be sure to ask about checking your breasts at home.
- Your clinician will check the outside of your vagina. Then the clinician will gently open the vagina with a speculum.
- Your clinician will take a few cells from your cervix for the Pap test. You may feel a pinch or a cramp, but it only takes a few seconds.
- Next your clinician will perform a pelvic exam – a check of your sex organs by placing two fingers in your vagina while gently pressing on your stomach. If it is hard to feel your organs this way, your clinician may also place a finger in your rectum. This can make you feel like you have to go to the bathroom.
- Tell the clinician if you have had any rashes, bumps, pain or discharge. You may need other tests.
What should I do before my Pelvic Exam?
For the two days before your exam, don’t put anything in your vagina. Don’t douche, don’t have sex, don’t use tampons and don’t put medicine inside your vagina. This will help your clinician get a good sample of cells from the cervix. If your sample is not good, you may need to come back for another test. Keep in mind you’ll need to have your exam done when you are not on your period.
What do my Pap Test results mean?
For more information on Pap Test results, please visit our section on Pap Smears.
How can I protect myself from cancer of the cervix?
- Get the follow-up care you need in a timely basis. Don’t wait!
- Use condoms every time you have sex to protect from infections and cancer of the cervix.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes.
- Eat healthy foods rich in folic acid like oranges and broccoli.
- Have a Pap test once a year or more often if your health care provider recommends it.
Check your breasts once a month
Get to know how your breasts look and feel. Look for any changes from one month to the next. Checking your breasts takes just a few minutes. Choose a day in each month, while you are not on your period, that is easy for you to remember.
Check your whole breast area
This is the area from your armpit to just below the breasts; over the middle of your chest up to your collarbone.
Lie flat on your back
Put one arm over your head and a pillow under this shoulder. Start under the armpit with your other hand. You will be checking the whole breast area up and down.
Move your fingers in small circles
Use the flat part of your fingers. Make 3 little circles. First press gently, then press a little deeper and finally press as deep as you can. Without lifting your fingers, move them down a little. Make 3 more little circles the same way. Keep making circles. Little by little, move your fingers until you have felt below your breast.
Check every inch of your breast
Feel in little circles. Keep going up and down. Raise your other arm and follow the same steps on the other breast.
Stand in front of a mirror
Look at the size and shape of your breasts and note any changes. Look at your skin and again, note any changes. Look at your nipples and squeeze them to check for fluid.
You can make a difference by doing these three things
- Check your breasts every month.
- Have your health care provider check your breasts once a year. The health care provider will look and feel for changes in your breasts.
- Talk with your doctor or nurse about when you should have a mammogram. www.womens-clinic.org