PAP Smear guidelines have changed and now recommend some women receive PAP Smear exams every 2-3 years rather than annually. The PAP Smear is often confused with an annual well-woman exam and the changes in guidelines have only intensified the confusion. While the PAP Smear is included in the annual exam, the PAP Smear involves screening for cervical cancer only.
Well-woman exams address many areas of preventative health care. The typical exam involves checking vital signs and ruling out things such as hypertension. Heart and lungs are assessed and a breast exam is done to rule out masses that may lead to cancer. We also perform abdominal checks for abnormalities in organs such as the liver and a pelvic exam to assess all parts of the female reproductive system.
During the well-woman exam, your physician will also discuss your health, family and social history, nutrition, and general risk for health issues.
Other services may be recommended during the annual exam including lab work to check for high cholesterol, thyroid abnormalities, and things such as anemia. This is also a good time to update a person’s vaccination history and evaluate other appropriate vaccinations.
The well-woman exam is an opportunity to detect health concerns early enough that intervention allows for a cure, marking the importance of preventative medicine and providing peace of mind for the patient.
Aimee Brown PA-C Billings OB-GYN Associates