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What does a physical consist of?

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Although an annual physical exam can vary depending on the doctor, it typically involves a review of the patient's health history; a check of vital signs; and lung, heart, neurological, head, neck, dermatological and extremities examinations, according to WebMD. Laboratory and sex-specific tests are also often included.

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Some components of physical exams vary depending on the patient's sex, explains WebMD. A female patient may receive a breast exam to check for signs of breast cancer or other breast abnormalities. She may also undergo a pelvic examination, which involves checking the vulva, vagina and cervix for signs of infection or abnormal growths. Doctors often perform a Pap smear and an HPV test as part of the pelvic exam to check if the patient has signs or risk factors of cervical cancer.

Meanwhile, a physical exam on a male patient may include a hernia exam, testicular exam, penis exam and prostate exam to check for male health concerns, notes WebMD. The hernia exam requires the patient to cough while turning his head so the doctor can look for any abdominal weakness in between the scrotum and intestines. During the testicular exam, the doctor checks for tenderness, lumps and size changes, which can be indicative of a problem such as testicular cancer. The penis exam helps detect signs of sexually transmitted infections, and the prostate exam involves the doctor feeling the prostate to check for abnormalities in size or other warning signs of a health problem.

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