Dismiss Modal

Patient Information

A woman's relationship with her gynecologist is one of the most important healthcare relationships she will have. Gynecologists, like the expert physicians at WakeMed Obstetrics & Gynecology can counsel and treat you as your body changes through the many phases of life, starting with menstruation through child-bearing years through menopause.

What is a Gynecologist?

A gynecologist is a doctor who has completed medical school and also received further training to special in issues regarding a woman's reproductive system (ovaries, uterus, vagina) and often in conditions affecting the urinary tract, such as infections or stress incontinence. Gynecologists are also trained in gynecological surgery, such as hysterectomies (removal of the uterus).

What's Involved in a Gynecological Exam?

Your annual gynecological exam will include a chat with your gynecologist doctor about any health changes or events in the past year, and then a thorough exam that includes recording your weight, blood pressure and pulse and other vital signs. Generally, urine and blood samples will be collected and tested for infections or vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Many women experience yeast or urinary tract infections, which are common and usually treated with antibiotics. Your gynecologist doctor also will check your thyroid, and perform breast, pelvic and rectal exams. A Pap smear will be performed to check for any abnormalities in cells in the cervic.

What is a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear is an examination under the microscope of cells scraped from the cervix. It can indicate cancerous or precancerous conditions in the cervix.

For this exam, you will lie on a table and place your feet in stirrups, which allows your gynecologist doctor to insert a speculum, which is an instrument that slightly opens the vagina. Cell samples are collected by gently scraping the outside of the cervix with a wooden or plastic spatula, then inserting a small brush that looks like a pipe cleaner into the canal. The cells are placed on a glass slide, or put in a bottle containing a preservative, and then sent to the lab for examination.

If your Pap smear shows abnormalities, further testing or follow-up will be needed and that will depend on the results of the Pap smear, your previous history of Pap smears, and risk factors you may have for cervical cancer.

It is best to have your annual gynecologist exam shortly after your period. You should avoid douching, tub baths, using tampons or having intercourse within 24 hours of the test.

Why are Breast Exams Essential?

Regular breast examinations are important to monitor any changes and risks for breast cancer. As with most types of cancer, early detection is key. Women are encouraged to examine their own breasts monthly for lumps, and will likely have a series of mammograms over the years.

A mammogram is an effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer at an early stage because it can reveal lesions or spots inside the breast that may not be evident from a visual or manual exam.

What Other Issues Can I Cover in an Annual Exam?

You may talk with your gynecology doctor about general health issues, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), difficulties with intercourse, prenatal care, or problems that are associated with menopause, like hot flashes. It is helpful if you write down your questions ahead of time.

Whatever your questions, the gynecologists at WakeMed Obstetrics & Gynecology, will provide answers and help you explore the best options to keep you healthy through all of the phases of your life.