Not every visit to the doctor is because you’re sick. In the case of a women’s health appointment, also called a well-woman exam, you see your doctor once a year to catch up on how you’re doing, discuss if you’ve developed any health problems or concerns, and get current on preventive screenings and vaccinations.
At Broadway Family Clinic in Pearland, Texas, board-certified family physicians Dr. Kashif Siddiqui and Dr. Sumera Muzaffar offer women’s health services for patients in and around the Houston area. As many women are understandably nervous about their first well-woman visit, the team is taking this opportunity to inform you about what you can expect, so you can be an active part of the health care process.
A well-woman exam is a lot like an annual physical; the primary difference is in focus. During a physical, the doctor checks for things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or changes in your skin.
During a well-woman exam, the doctor checks primarily for concerns related to your reproductive health, such as changes to your menstrual cycle or your best contraception options.
The areas covered include:
Your exam will likely start with reviewing your medical history, including your family history, symptoms, medications, lifestyle, and any concerns you may have so the doctor can understand your current health and note any changes since your last visit.
The doctor may ask about your menstrual cycle, if you’re sexually active, if you have been or plan to become pregnant, and any medications you take and allergies you have.
Vital signs provide a quick peek at your overall health. The doctor records your height, weight, temperature, and blood pressure, at a minimum. These can also be used as baseline numbers in case you develop problems over time.
The doctor also listens to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope and will palpate your neck to check your thyroid gland.
For the breast exam, you lie on the exam table with your arm above your head. Using their fingertips with medium pressure, the doctor checks your breast tissue for any signs of concern, like lumps or swelling. They’ll probably also recommend a mammogram, an X-ray study of the breasts that can reveal lumps too small to feel with your fingers.
If you’re 21-65 years old, the doctor performs a pelvic exam. This is a screening for any signs of disease or other problems in your vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix.
You lie on your back on the exam table with your feet in stirrups. The doctor uses a speculum, a thin device that opens the vagina so they can see inside clearly, to ensure everything looks normal. They may also use their hands to feel the uterus and ovaries for any signs of abnormalities.
Some women find the pelvic exam a bit uncomfortable, and it may cause a bit of cramping, but it shouldn’t cause you any pain.
As part of the pelvic exam, the doctor may perform a Pap smear and HPV (human papillomavirus) screening. The Pap test is recommended once every three years, though the doctor may recommend them more frequently if you’ve had abnormal results in the past.
The doctor uses a small brush or spatula to gently remove cells from your cervix and sends them to a lab for testing. It’s one of the best ways to detect cervical cancer when it’s still in its early stages and more easily treated.
While a women's health appointment primarily addresses your reproductive health, you can certainly bring up questions about any other aspect of your health. If you have a mental health concern, for example, the doctor can perform an initial assessment, then give you a referral to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment. This is your time to speak up about your health, so if you have questions, ask.
If you’re at least 21 and haven’t yet had a women’s health appointment, come into Broadway Family Clinic so we can address all aspects of your reproductive health. Give our office a call at 346-857-0603, or book online with us today.