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Do Women Need Annual Exams?

August 3, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Do Women Need Annual Exams?

Many women are questioning whether they need to visit their OB/GYN every year for an annual exam.  The uncertainty comes from several health groups that now recommend women get pap smears every three years instead of annually.

Moira Zahn makes a point to visit her OB/GYN once a year for an exam.

"I have a family history of cancer.  So, it's always been important to me to get those annual checkups," Zahn said.

But Zahn admits with several groups not recommending Pap smears every year, she's a little confused.

"I'm not sure. I think as long as my insurance is going to cover it, I'd like to get those exams," Zahn said.

While you might not need a Pap smear every year, Avera OB/GYN Dr. Annie Siewert says there are other reasons for the annual exam.

"Heart disease and diabetes are still the leading causes of problems in women.  And we can screen for diabetes and cholesterol, also osteoporosis and then especially breast cancer," Siewert said.

Siewert says it's also a chance for patients to get to know their doctors and bring up other concerns.

"I don't know how many times I've seen a patient and they come in for their annual and Pap and they have actually several other issues that are more pressing to them at that time," Siewert said.

Siewert also says people such as Zahn, who have a family history of breast or cervical cancer, should absolutely get an annual exam. That's exactly what Zahn still plans to do.

"It gives you a comfort level I suppose more than anything," Zahn said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women have an annual exam starting at age 21, and even sooner if a woman has pelvic pain or other worrisome symptoms.

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