What is a Well Woman Exam?

Well woman exams are the foundation for wellness, health promotion and disease identification and management throughout your life. A Well Woman Exam, also known as a Pap-smear, is a diagnostic test of a sample of cells from the surface of a woman’s cervix to check for abnormalities that can develop into cancer. It also checks for:

  • Inflammation of the cervix
  • Infection of the cervix
  • Changes or abnormalities (cervical dysplasia) that could develop into cancer

Cervical cancer develops relatively slowly, so abnormalities detected early can be treated before cancer develops.

Prior to Procedure:

  • Do not schedule the Pap test during your menstrual period; if possible, schedule it two weeks after the first day of your period.
  • do not use vaginal creams, medications, or douches for 72 hours before the test.
  • Do not use contraceptives such as spermicidal foams, creams, or jellies for 72 hours before the test.
  • Do not have intercourse for 24 hours before the test.

Tell your doctor if any of the following are true:

  • You are having your period
  • You are pregnant
  • You had a previous Pap test showing abnormalities
  • You are sexually active
  • You have been exposed to HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases
  • You have had abnormal vaginal discharges or vaginal infections
  • You have had surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy
  • You are taking birth control pills, hormone pills, or using hormone cream
The day of your mammogram:
  • Do not apply deodorant, talcum power, lotion, or perfume near your breasts or under your arms.
  • some women experience less discomfort during brest compression if they take two ibuprofen tablets about an hour before the test.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit; you will need to remove all of your clothing and jewelry from the waist up and change into a gown that opens in the front.
  • Bring copies of previous mammogram’s and reports with you.
  • Inform the technician if you are pregnant or have brest implants.
  • Describe any brest problems to the technician before x-rays are taken

During the Procedure:

You lie on your back on an examination table, with legs spread and feet placed in foot rests. A medical instrument, called a speculum, is gently inserted into the vagina, and opened so that the doctor can view the cervix. At this point, a pelvic exam is done. For this exam, the doctor checks the uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, rectum, and bladder.

For the Pap test, a wooden swab, brush, or stick is inserted into the vagina and used to wipe the walls of the cervix to retrieve cervical cells. These cells are placed on a glass microscope slide and sent to a laboratory for testing and evaluation. The whole procedure will take roughly 20 minutes.

After the Procedure:

Results of your Pap test are sent to your doctor within 2-3 weeks. Your doctor will then inform you of the results, and, if necessary, discuss any follow-up testing or treatment:

  • If the cells retrieved were normal, no further treatment will be necessary. Make sure to have another Pap test with your doctor during your next yearly pelvic exam.
  • If an infection is found, further treatment will be prescribed.
  • If abnormalities are found, further tests will be performed. Once the cause of the abnormality is determined, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Further tests include:
    • Colposcopy – an examination of the vagina and cervix with a colposcope which allows the doctor to see the cervix more clearly.
    • Biopsy – removal of a small amount of cervical tissue for further testing.