What to expect at the well woman visit

All Woman

Dear Dr Mitchell,
I want to schedule a well woman exam, and would like to know what to expect. What checks and tests will the doctor be doing?

A well woman visit is extremely important for all women and is even more vital once you are over 40 years old.

At this doctor's visit a complete physical including blood pressure is done and includes a breast examination to rule out any lumps in the breast and a pelvic examination to check on the uterus, ovaries and cervix.

A cervical smear (Pap smear) should also be done once you are 21 years old or older. This should be done every one to two years. It is also important for you to get vaccinated against cervical cancer. The vaccine is widely available and is given in three doses over six months. This reduces your risk of cervical, anal and oropharyngeal cancer.

A mammogram should also be done if you are 40 years and older. If you have a family history of breast cancer then earlier screening might be indicated.

A blood test to determine the cholesterol level, blood glucose, and a urine analysis should also be done if you have a strong family history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension or heart disease. If you are overweight then this should definitely be done.

The well women check should be done once every year. If your family history or personal history puts you at higher risk then every six months would be appropriate.

Consult your doctor who will advise you further.

Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 876-968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.

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