When to Schedule a Well-Woman Exam

Staying healthy often means being active and eating right. However, included in this should be going to well-woman exams with your gynecologist.

While the doctors at Southeast Urogyn have several subspecialties, they recognize the importance of maintaining preventive exams with their patients. The rule of thumb for well-woman exams used to be annually. However, many doctors are now scheduling visits based on the individual, rather than simply applying a blanket standard of every 12 months.

Your ideal well-woman exam cycle may be shorter or longer depending on your health history, lifestyle conditions, and current health. Here are some general guidelines for when you should have well-woman exams. 

Pap test guidelines

Testing for cervical cancer is important, since it develops slowly and is usually easy to treat in its precancerous and early cancerous stages. The Pap test is the most common form of screening, and it used to be the main justification for annual well-woman exams.

However, because cervical cancer usually takes years to progress through its precancerous stages, annual testing is now deemed excessive for most women. In 2012, a team that included the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society revised their recommendations for Pap tests. These recommendations include: 

Women ages 30-65

Women in this age range with no previous history of positive or irregular Pap tests should have a test that combines screening for cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV) every five years. 

Women over age 65

A woman over age 65 with no history of cervical cancer doesn’t need Pap testing, provided she has either three consecutive negative Pap tests or two consecutive Pap/HPV tests in the previous 10 years. 

Women who have had a hysterectomy

A woman who has had a hysterectomy that includes the removal of the cervix doesn’t need a Pap test as long as she has had no cancer in her reproductive organs or evidence of precancerous cervical cells.

Other reasons for well-woman exams

While Pap testing was a major reason for annual exams in the past, the five-year requirement means that these tests no longer serve as a reliable basis for scheduling well-woman exams. Whether annual exams are needed is a decision for you and your doctor to make.

The current trend in medicine is moving away from the annual exam. It’s usually safe for women in good health and with no symptoms or irregularities to move to a longer well-woman exam schedule. If you have health conditions that need more frequent monitoring, a schedule of less than 12 months may be better for you.

Changes in your life may also be a reason to move a well-woman exam forward. Perhaps the best example of this is when you decide to have a child. A well-woman exam makes sense then, regardless of where it fits into your cycle.

To learn more about well-woman exams, and to know when you should have them, book an appointment over the phone with Southeast Urogyn today.

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