Well-woman exams will include some common elements whether you are in your 20s or your 60s. The exam is a preventive checkup that in most cases, will have no cost if you have health insurance. At any age, your well-woman examination will include a pelvic examination, a breast exam, and a pap smear. Your physician will talk with you about your health goals and any additional tests or vaccines you may need.
Well-Woman Exam in Your 20s
It’s easy to take our health for granted in our 20s. Your well-woman exam in your 20s will include your reproductive plans and a discussion of which contraception method is good for you.
If you haven’t received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, you should ask your physician about the series of three shots that can prevent the virus that has been linked to cervical cancer.
If you are sexually active, you should receive screening for STIs including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. Additionally, a pap smear is recommended annually for most women.
Well-Woman Exam in Your 30s
Your body changes in your 30s, and while your well-woman exam will be similar to the one you receive in your 20s, your choices about contraception and your sexual health may change.
You may also experience more challenges maintaining a healthy weight. Exams in your 30s will monitor your BMI, breast health, blood pressure, and health habits.
Well-Woman Exam in Your 40s
A mammogram is recommended every year beginning at age 40, and your breast exam will now include your axillae (armpits) in addition to your breasts. If you are not at high risk, you will continue to have pap smears every three years. You will also begin to be tested for diabetes and high cholesterol.
Perimenopause, the phase when your hormones begin to change before your menstrual periods stop, can last three to five years and most commonly begins in the late 40s. Your physician will work with you to understand the changes that are taking place.
Well-Woman Exam in Your 50s
The most common age of menopause in the United States is 51, but the majority of women may reach menopause any time between 45 and 55. If your periods stop, that doesn’t mean you will no longer need the same exams you had before menopause.
Your well-woman exam in your 50s will include the same elements as it did in your 30s and 40s. A pap smear will most often be eliminated from your exam after becoming menopausal.
Well-Woman Exam in Your 60s
If you have no health risks and a history of clear Pap tests, you can begin having tests less frequently, with rescreening recommended about every five years. Your body will undergo post-menopausal changes, and your Well-Woman exam will reflect this. Your physician will work with you to maintain your whole body health including the natural changes of aging.
Your OB-GYN is your partner in health throughout your life. The Well-Woman exam recognizes your health needs throughout your life and is an important tool of preventive medicine from your 20s to your 60s and beyond.