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By Dr. Candace McGregor, OBGYN, Christie Clinic
There are reasons for a woman to consider the value of the pelvic exam.
The pelvic exam consists of three parts. First, the provider inspects the external anatomy to look for redness, rashes, ulcers, and growths. Second, the speculum is inserted to examine the cervix and deeper portion of the vagina. This is often with the Pap smear sample is taken. The Pap smear is a screening test specifically for cervical cancer. Current medical guidelines suggest that people who haven’t had abnormal pap smears have a pap smear every third year (21-29 years of age) or every fifth year (30-65 years of age).
A Pap smear does not always have to be performed with a pelvic exam. The final part of the pelvic exam occurs when the provider presses on the uterus and ovaries through the vagina. The proper location, size, and texture of the organs are confirmed with this third part of the exam.
There are times in performing a routine pelvic exam that disease or problems can be identified that either the patient wasn’t aware of or that they were too uncomfortable to bring up. Examples include:
- Vaginal Atrophy – a thinning and dryness of the vaginal skin that can lead to irritation and painful intimacy.
- A bulge in the vaginal caused by a condition called pelvic organ prolapse. This condition can be associated with the leakage of urine.
- Signs of infection can be detected that could lead to testing and treatment before the symptoms occur.
All of the above can be treated but may have gone undiagnosed without a pelvic exam.
Other reasons to perform a pelvic exam include:
- Women having problems such as menstrual period changes, vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain.
- Women who experience heaviness, bloating, change in appetite, or change in how their clothes fit.
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