Ladies, even if you visit your gynecologist in Arizona for an annual well-woman exam, are you also making time to see a primary care physician? An annual physical is important for good health in all stages of life, not just when you’re a student or an older adult.

Women should have both a physical and a well-woman exam each year, taking advantage of the unique perspective each practice area has to offer. Having a relationship with both a primary care physician and a gynecologist in Arizona provides women an opportunity to have resources to answer their questions and physicians who understand their medical history.

Why Women Need An Annual Physical Exam

It is important that women get annual physicals because the exam is a time when a family practice or internal medicine doctor not only performs a complete physical exam of the patient, but it is also a time when lifestyle habits are discussed.

Lifestyle issues are addressed during yearly physicals by discussing weight, specific programs that have been shown to work for weight loss and smoking cessation options.

Physical exams vary depending on a doctor’s personal style, but often include:

  • Vital signs assessment (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, respiration rate);
  • Overall appearance review;
  • Family history;
  • Heart exam;
  • Lung exam;
  • Neurological exam;
  • Dermatological exam;
  • Head and neck exam;
  • Extremities exam;
  • Breast exam (for women).

Primary care physicians may also order blood tests to screen for conditions like anemia, kidney or liver disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. At age-appropriate levels, they order screening tests like colonoscopies and mammograms. Internists have expertise in managing common conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and high cholesterol, and often coordinate care among the specialists their patients see.
Primary care doctors frequently make referrals to subspecialists, then receive letters from the referring physicians about what was done and make follow up phone calls to discuss a patient’s individual care.

Why Women Need A Yearly Gynecologic Exam

While full-body exams are important, patients should take advantage of the knowledge of specialists like OB/GYNs. Gynecologists in Arizona can address fertility issues, birth control, cancer prevention, sexually transmitted infections and other health issues women face. They have extra training in pelvic exams, Pap smears, menstrual regularity and birth control and it’s important to have that relationship and make use of their expertise.

A woman should see her OB/GYN for several reasons, depending on what age group she is in.  She may need:

  • A clinical breast exam;
  • A pelvic exam to make sure her uterus and ovaries are okay;
  • A Pap smear;
  • Sexually transmitted disease screenings;
  • Contraception counseling.

If she wants to become pregnant, this is a good time to talk about genetic testing and prenatal vitamins. If a patient is worried about cancer – for example, if her mother had breast cancer, it’s a good time to discuss screenings.

How To Prepare For Both Exams

The most important thing to know before you see your doctor is your past medical and surgical history, the immunizations you have had and when you had them, as well as when you had your last mammogram and colonoscopy, if age-appropriate.  If you had an abnormality, for instance on a mammogram or X-ray, bringing in records of that is very useful.
If you have questions that you want to ask your doctor, it is helpful to write them down in advance so you don’t forget when you get in the office. Both your primary physician and gynecologist in Arizona are there to answer your questions and make sure you are in optimal health.

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