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April 26, 2023

Why you should schedule your annual gynecology appointment

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Why you should schedule your annual gynecology appointment

Most people don’t exactly look forward to their annual gynecological exam, especially if it’s time for a pap smear. But these screenings are essential for catching health concerns as early as possible.

Read this Q&A with IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Obstetrics and Gynecology provider Maryam Egenolf, NP, MSN, WHNP-BC, to learn more.

Why are annual gynecology appointments necessary?

They help facilitate preventative care. As providers, we want to ensure you are up to date on your routine screenings (pap smears as cervical cancer screening, mammogram as breast screening, colonoscopy as colon cancer screening, bone density scan as osteoporosis screening, and STD screenings).

Additionally, it’s important to check in with a provider yearly to ask questions about your health and discuss topics such as your menstrual cycle, family planning, and personal healthcare goals.

What is an annual gynecology appointment like?

I want to know what matters most to the patient, so I address any questions or concerns and then discuss the care plan.

Next, I like to ask if I should know anything to facilitate patient comfort (ex: anxiety, history of trauma, pelvic discomfort). Typically, I will listen to a patient’s heart and lungs, palpate their thyroid/ surrounding lymph nodes, offer a breast exam, and offer a pelvic exam.

The patient has the right to defer any portion of their examination.

Why are regular pap smears important?

Pap smears are a screening test for abnormal cells that could indicate cervical cancer. They are typically given every 3 – 5 years, or sooner, depending on the patient.

The pap smear process

A speculum and light are used to see the cervix, and a soft brush collects a sample of cells. This process is typically painless, but I encourage patients to tell me if they are experiencing any discomfort throughout the test.

How you can prepare for a pap smear

No preparation is needed. It is OK if you are on your period, just as long as the flow is not too heavy.

When should someone start getting pap smears?

Cervical cancer screenings typically start at the age of 21 but may need to be started sooner if the patient is immunocompromised.

When you should make an appointment outside of your annual exam

Anytime a patient has questions or needs regarding their health.

When should someone start getting an annual appointment?

There is no specific time. I like to see patients before they become sexually active to discuss the HPV vaccine and safe sex practices.

What is HPV?

Cuman papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted and can result in cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against future exposure to nine of the most common HPV infections. Start routine HPV vaccination at ages 11 to 12, through age 26.

What else should people know?

Healthcare should be a collaboration between the patient and their provider. Shared decision-making empowers patients to feel they are in control of their care. The provider and the patient have the same goal: The patient’s best interest.

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