If you are 18 years or older, or have ever been sexually active, we recommend that you have a yearly gynecologic exam. The purpose of this exam is to determine that your reproductive organs are healthy, and to detect any medical conditions (such as infections or abnormal Pap smears) that could become serious if not treated.
- How do I schedule my yearly gynecological exam?
You can schedule an appointment online or call (434) 924-5362. If possible, try to schedule it at a time when you will not be having your period.
- Please complete the initial patient questionnaire if it is your first time having a gynecological exam at SHW. This questionnaire can be accessed in the "Forms" section of the HealthyHoos patient portal after you make your appointment.
- Ideally, try not to have sex or use any creams, douches, spermicides, or tampons for 24-48 hours prior to your exam.
- If you are comfortable doing so, it is helpful to learn as much as you can about your own medical history as well as that of your parents, grandparents, and siblings, prior to your appointment.
- Come to the clinic 15 minutes prior to your actual appointment time and allow approximately one hour for the appointment.
- What should I expect during my yearly exam?
Discussion of Medical History: Your health care provider will ask many questions related to your lifestyle (including nutrition, physical activity, recreational habits, etc.), family medical history, and sexual history. This discussion is also a good time to ask questions and report any concerns you may have about your reproductive health.
Physical Check-Up: Your health care provider will check vitals like blood pressure and heart rate, and will offer you a routine physical exam, including a breast exam, if you are comfortable. If indicated, a pelvic exam may be performed to check the external and internal reproductive organs (vulva, vagina, uterus, and ovaries). A speculum may be inserted into the vagina so the provider can see the vaginal walls and cervix.
Screenings and Lab Tests: Based on your age and sexual history, the provider may collect samples for screening tests during the pelvic exam. For cervical cancer screening, the provider may take a sample of cells from your cervix to be evaluated for any changes (this is called a Pap smear or test) and/or possibly for presence of HPV. Screening tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia, two sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also may be collected. To learn more about screenings for cervical cancer and STIs, go to www.ashastd.org; the American Social Health Association provides up to date information and links to other helpful websites.
- What other care topics can I discuss with my provider?
- Screening for other sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis and HIV.
- Options for birth control methods and which are best suited to your needs.
- Any concerns or questions you have about your reproductive and sexual health.
- What does it cost to have a yearly exam at SHW?
There is no fee for seeing a health care provider for examinations or counseling. However, there are charges for medications, lab tests and supplies for certain treatments. Please always bring your student identification card, insurance card, and prescription card (if separate) when visiting us.
- What else can I do to have a successful yearly exam?
It is ok to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even scared in anticipation of your first gynecologic exam! The more you know in advance, the better prepared you will be during your appointment. Two helpful/optional resources you can utilize:
- Make an appointment to speak with a provider about any uncertainities or concerns you have before you schedule your gynecological exam appointment. We're happy to walk through the process and explain different parts in more detail.
- If you are more comfortable speaking with a fellow student, our Peer Health Educators (PHEs) are specially trained to provide accurate, general information about gynecologic exams, birth control methods, and STIs. They do not provide individual medical advice.
What is a Pap Test?
A Pap test is a test that checks the cells of the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus and is located at the top of your vagina.
- The test checks for changes that could lead to cervical cancer if not treated.
- During a pelvic exam, the health care provider inserts a speculum into the vagina and collects some cells from the cervix with a swab or spatula and brush.
- It may cause very minor cramping, which is usually not painful. The test only takes a few minutes.
- Why is a Pap test important?
Precancerous cervical changes usually do not have any symptoms, so a Pap test is the only way to know whether those changes are present. Regular Pap tests can prevent most cervical cancers by detecting precancerous changes long before they become cancer. Those potentially pre-cancerous changes can be easily treated and eliminated.
- How often should I get a Pap test?
New recommendations for Pap test screening or cervical cancer screening were established in 2012. The current guidelines apply to people who have no history of abnormal pap tests. The guidelines are as follows:
< 21 no routine Pap tests 21-29 years Pap test every 3 years 30-65 years Pap test & HPV test "cotesting" every 5 years (preferred screening) OR Pap test every 3 years (acceptable screening)
- When is the best time and how should i prepare?
One to two weeks after your period is over and after any bleeding from the vagina has stopped. After any infection in the vagina has been treated and cleared (e.g. yeast infection.)
Preparation:Do not have sex (i.e. penis in vagina) for 48 hrs prior to the test. Do not put anything in the vagina for 48 hrs before the test, (e.g. tampon, douches, cervical caps, diaphragms, creams or foams)
- What will my results look like?
Normal: The cervical cells are healthy. If previous Pap tests have also been normal, you will not need a Pap test for 3 to 5 years depending on your age.
Unsatisfactory specimen: This specimen cannot be read for a variety of reasons. Causes include douching, bleeding, infection, or insufficient number of cells collected. An unsatisfactory Pap test will need to be repeated in 2-4 months.
ASCUS: Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance. The Pap test showed some changes in the cells but the cause is not clear. Usually the changes resolve on their own but sometimes additional testing will be recommended by your healthcare provider.
Low grade changes: This most likely indicates that you have been infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Some types of HPV can be associated with the increased risk of cervical cancer. Your health care provider will recommend specific follow-up. This may include a Repeating the Pap test or aa colposcopy.
High grade changes: The cells of the cervix have likely been infected with one of the HPV types that can cause cancer. Colposcopy is needed to determine the location and nature of the abnormal area. Biopsy and treatment may be necessary. Evaluation and treatment of the cervix with high grade changes are VERY important.