It’s all about preventive health. As you age, your body changes and will experience new challenges. A well visit is there for you to understand your own personal health risks and how to readily avoid them. What’s on your mind? Talk about your stress levels, your nutrition, your mood, your medications, your sex life, your family’s health history—next to nothing is off the table. Asking questions and raising concerns helps your health care provider know what’s important to you and what he or she should screen you for. Speaking of health care providers…
More than ever, health care is beginning to embrace the idea that hey, maybe providers and patients should get along and have open dialogues about stuff. Your provider should meet you in the middle and show a genuine interest in your health—no judgments. Allowing yourself to build trust into that relationship will increase the likelihood of a satisfactory visit (and could also help you feel less awkward when you need an exam).
While the well visit is often talked about as a single, annual visit, it doesn’t always stop there. For example, if you’ve got a history of breast cancer in your family, your provider might decide that you should get a mammogram or refer you for further evaluation.
Adolescent Annual Well Visits
Adolescence is a time of tremendous opportunity and change. It is a critical period in your life span. Annual well visits provide opportunities to talk with your provider and positively influence future health behaviors and health outcomes. You and your provider can discuss your increasingly expanding social spheres, healthy lifestyles and making smart choices.
The contents of your well visit are up to you and your provider. As far as services go, your visit(s) could include any/some of the following depending on your current health status:
- Contraceptive counseling
- Alcohol misuse screening
- Blood pressure screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Depression screening
- Nutrition and diet counseling
- HIV screening
- Vaccines and immunizations
- STI screening
Who Should Get Pap Tests?
Leading health authorities recommend getting routine Pap tests at age 21.
Pap tests can happen about every three years, although some people may need them more frequently — your health care provider can tell you how often you should have them.
You should continue to have Pap tests until about age 65 — or sometimes later, if you have a recent history of abnormal Pap tests.
If you have questions about your risks for cervical cancer, what you can do to prevent cervical cancer, and whether you should get a Pap test or HPV test, we have answers.
Pap Tests & HPV Tests
Pap tests and HPV tests are kinds of cervical cancer screening. Routine screenings help to prevent and detect cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among women worldwide. Cervical cancer is caused by a common sexually transmitted infection, human papilloma virus (HPV).
Pap tests are usually part of a regular pelvic exam. During a Pap test, your health care provider inserts a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. The speculum is opened to separate the walls of the vagina so that the cervix can be seen. The health care provider then uses a small sampler — a spatula or tiny brush — to gently collect cells from the cervix. The cells are sent to the laboratory to be tested.
About one in four people will get the types of HPV that are related to cervical cancer in their lifetime. But, today, only one out of 1,000 people who contracts cancer-related HPV will develop full-blown cervical cancer. This is because cervical cancer can be prevented by having by having regular Pap tests, regularly using condoms, and, when appropriate, getting HPV tests.
A Pap test does not detect HPV itself. A laboratory technician uses a microscope to look at a sample of cervical cells for signs of abnormal cell changes that may be caused by HPV. These cell changes may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.