Regular gynecological exams detect health problems, diagnose medical conditions and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, according to OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches. Early detection of certain cancers and other conditions is the first line of defense. Avoiding regular gynecological exams increases the risk of pelvic infections, unintended pregnancies, and breast, ovarian and cervical cancers.
During a routine pelvic exam, the doctor checks the patient's vagina, vulva, cervix, uterus and rectum for growths, tumors or cellular abnormalities, states Mayo Clinic. The doctor performs an external visual exam, then an internal one with the use of a speculum to spread the vaginal walls in order to better view the pelvic organs. A Pap smear may also be included in a pelvic exam; this involves collecting a small sample of cells from the outer cervix. The cells are later sent to a laboratory for further examination.
Pap Smears are recommended for all women aged 21 and over, and women aged 21 to 65 should have one every three years, according to WebMD. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends testing for HPV in addition to the Pap test for women aged 30 to 65; doing so can extend the recommended interval from three years to five years for most healthy women.