The medical information published on this website is not intended to serve as a substitution for a thorough evaluation from a qualified healthcare provider.

Furthermore, no one should act upon any of the information (including medical conditions or procedures) contained within this website without appropriate medical advice, a thorough examination or any evaluation necessary to provide a health assessment from a qualified physician.

Well Woman Exams

Annual well woman exams including breast exam and cervical cancer screening (pap smears) are available for women of all ages: adolescents to older adults. We combine the latest recommendations in preventative health with individual goals for wellness.

What is cervical cancer screening? Cervical cancer screening is used to find changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening includes cervical cytology (also called the Pap test or Pap smear), testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), or both. Most women should have cervical cancer screening on a regular basis.

What causes cervical cancer? Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with HPV. HPV is a virus. It enters cervical cells and can cause them to change. Some types of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer as well as to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat. Types of HPV that may cause cancer are known as “high-risk types.”

These and other types of HPV can be passed from person to person during sexual activity. HPV is very common—most people who are sexually active will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV infection often causes no symptoms. Most people do not even know they are infected.

How is cervical cancer screening done? Cervical cancer screening includes the Pap test, an HPV test, or both. Both tests use cells taken from the cervix. The screening process is simple and fast. You lie on an exam table and a speculum is used to open the vagina. The speculum gives a clear view of the cervix and upper vagina.

Cells are removed from the cervix with a brush or other sampling instrument. The cells usually are put into a special liquid and sent to a laboratory for testing.

What does it mean if I have an abnormal cervical cancer screening test result? Many women have abnormal cervical cancer screening results. An abnormal result does not mean that you have cancer. Remember that cervical cell changes often go back to normal on their own. If they do not, it often takes several years for even high-grade changes to become cancer.

If you have an abnormal screening test result, additional testing is needed to find out whether high-grade changes or cancer actually is present. If results of follow-up tests indicate high-grade changes, you may need treatment to remove the abnormal cells.

Why is breast screening important? In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer by age 75 years. Regular breast screening can help find cancer at an early and more curable stage. Screening also can find problems in the breasts that are not cancer.

What is mammography? Mammography is the primary tool used to screen for breast cancer and other problems. Mammography uses X-ray technology to view the breasts. The images created are called a mammogram. A physician called a radiologist reads the images.

What happens during a mammogram? You will need to completely undress from the waist up and put on a gown. You will be asked to stand in front of an X-ray machine. One of your breasts will be placed between two flat plastic plates. You will feel firm pressure on your breast. The plates will flatten your breast as much as possible so that the most amount of tissue can be viewed. These steps will be repeated to take a side view of the breast. The test then is done on the other breast.

When should I start having screening mammography? For women at average risk of breast cancer, screening mammography is recommended every 1–2 years beginning at age 40 years. If you have not started screening in your 40s, you should start having mammography no later than age 50 years. Screening should continue until at least age 75 years.

How often should I have a clinical breast exam? For women who are at average risk of breast cancer and who do not have symptoms, the following are suggested:

  • Clinical breast exam every 1–3 years for women aged 25–39 years
  • Clinical breast exam every year for women aged 40 years and older