When You Should Get a Pap Smear, Pelvic, and Clinical Breast Exams
Pelvic and clinical breast exams, and a pap smear are important for routine women’s health care. They help detect abnormalities that can lead to cancer. Below you will find information about when to get these exams and why they’re important.
We recommend you receive an annual pelvic exam as soon as you become sexually active, regardless of age. This important exam allows us to monitor the female organs for changes in size or shape and signs of disease like inflammation, masses, or fibroids. If any changes are discovered during your exam, we will recommend additional testing, such as a pelvic ultrasound for further examination.
During your pelvic exam, we can perform a pap smear to test the cells in the cervix for any changes that could lead to cancer. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends:
- Every woman should get her first pap smear test at 21 years old and continue to do so every three years until she turns 30.
- Women aged 30-65 years old: every five years
An abnormal pap smear doesn’t always mean cancer. Many women experience cervical cell changes, and often those changes go back to normal on their own. Should you receive an abnormal pap smear, we will request additional testing like a colposcopy or cervical biopsy for closer examination of the changes. If results of follow-up tests indicate significant changes, the abnormal cells will be removed. You will need follow-up testing after treatment and regular cervical cancer screening after the follow up is complete.
Clinical Breast Exam
It’s important to conduct monthly self breast exams to know what is normal for your breasts so you can notice small changes and report them right away.
ACOG advises women get a clinical breast exam:
- Every one to three years for women 20-30 years old
- Every year for women aged 40 and older
You should talk with us about your risk factors to make a decision about whether to have a clinical breast exam.
Scheduling Your Exam
To schedule your women’s health exams with our OBGYN team, please call (423) 492-7100. Here’s a recap of when you should get your exams:
- Pelvic exam: every year as soon as you become sexually active
- Pap smear:
- 21-30: every three years
- 30-65: every five years
- Clinical breast exam
- 20-30: every one to three years
- 40+: every year