Baptist Health Madisonville:The Well Woman Exam
Nurse practitioner MITNA NGO explains what to expect during a well-woman exam and advises women about when to see an OB/GYN provider for certain screenings.
The Well Woman Exam Health Talks Transcript
Mitna Ngo, APRN, Women’s Health
The well-woman exam includes the clinical breast exam, where a provider will check a woman’s breast for any breast changes and then go over the proper way to perform a self breast exam at home. A woman can start self breast exams as early as breast tissue develops. We encourage a woman, starting at 18, to check her breasts every month the week after her period and report any changes to her provider. A pap smear is a screening tool for cervical cancer. We collect cells off a woman’s cervix to check for abnormalities. It’s an excellent screening tool because it can actually halt cervical cancer before it can become that. The abnormal cells that we find on a pap smear are linked to a virus called HPV or human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer in some women. It’s a very common sexually transmitted infection, and if cervical cancer is caught early then there is a higher chance for a cure. The guidelines currently recommend that women, regardless of sexual history, start routine pap smears at 21. Between 21 and 29, she should receive them every three years and after 30, or 30 and older, she should get them every three to five years, but the frequency changes if a woman has abnormal pap smears or a history of abnormal pap smears.