There is a test that accompanies the usual Pap smear and is done at the same time as the annual examination. It is called the high-risk HPV DNA test. HPV stands for human papilloma virus and consists of many strains but only a few are associated with cervical cancer. This test, covered by medical insurance if you live in Oregon, offers more information about the possibility a woman’s cervix may be or has been changed due to exposure to the virus. Women aged 21-29 do not need to have the test unless an abnormal Pap smear is found first. Women, aged 65 and older, do not need to continue HPV testing nor do women who have had a hysterectomy and have no cervix.
Annual physical examinations are still important for all women. While an exam does not have to include a Pap smear, a breast exam and several other physical examinations are completed at that time. A speculum will still be done to visually check the health of the cervix and vagina. While annual female wellness exams are sensitive in nature, they do not have to be anxiety-provoking. It is a good time for the patient to discuss any health concerns with her doctor. Speculum exams can be done with sensitivity and at the patient’s pace. I strive to be a caring physician who can take the time to explain each step of an annual exam.