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What do doctors do during pelvic exams?

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Quick Answer

During pelvic exams, doctors visually and manually evaluate female patients’ reproductive systems. The doctor checks a patient's uterus, cervix, vulva, vagina, rectums and pelvis. He also checks the ovaries for growths, masses and other abnormalities, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

A pelvic exam serves to either assess the patient’s gynecologic health or to diagnose a suspected medical condition, explains Mayo Clinic. During the pelvic exam, the patient gets undressed and puts on a robe, then lies on an exam table with a footrest. The doctor first visually examines her vulva and vagina for irritation, redness, cysts, discharge or any signs of a sexually transmitted infection, such as sores. The doctor then inserts a speculum into the patient’s vagina to spread open its walls and examines the vagina and cervix. If the pelvic exam includes a Pap smear, the doctor swipes the cervix for cells later used in diagnosing conditions such as cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, notes Healthline.

The doctor then conducts a bimanual exam, in which he palpates the patient’s abdomen and pelvis. He inserts two lubricated, gloved fingers into the vagina with one hand, and uses the other hand to press gently on the patient’s lower abdomen. He then checks the size and shape of the ovaries and uterus and looks for unusual growths and points of tenderness. After checking the vagina, he inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to test for growths, tenderness and other anomalies, reports Mayo Clinic.

When the exam is over, the patient gets dressed and discusses the doctor’s observations and any additional tests or treatment required. However, the patient has to wait for a few days for the Pap smear results, according to Mayo Clinic.

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