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Well Woman Exam:
Facts and Tips for Your Visit

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An annual exam is part of your health care. If it has been more than 12 months, please contact your health care provider to schedule an exam.

What is an annual exam?

An annual exam is a once-a-year visit to your primary care provider for a general health check, including a breast exam and pap smear. An annual exam visit does not include discussion of new problems or detailed review of chronic conditions. Annual exams are also called routine check-up, yearly exam, annual pap, and preventive visit.

Please schedule a separate appointment if you have health concerns other than your routine physical exam. Examples are:

  • A list of concerns or questions.

  • New health care concerns or problems found at the time of your annual exam.

  • Ongoing health problems that need more attention.
What should I expect during my annual exam?
  • General physical exam (including breast exam)
  • Pelvic exam (pap smear)
  • Update of life and work situation
  • Update of family health history (any new serious illnesses in your family?)
  • Review of your health history
  • Update of current medications, herbs, and supplements (bring list)
  • Need for medication refills
  • Evaluation of need for health screening tests based on age and personal and family history (such as mammogram, test for sexually transmitted diseases, and colon cancer screening)
  • Update on immunizations

What happens if you have a new health problem when you come for your annual exam?

You and your provider will need to decide whether to use the time that day to address your problem, in which case your annual exam visit can be rescheduled. Or you may choose to go ahead with your annual exam, and to defer the health concern to another visit. Scheduled appointment times do not allow for both.

Primary Care Provider (PCP)

If your PCP is outside our clinic, we will do only a women's health-focused visit that addresses gynecological issues (includes a breast and pelvic exam) rather than a full preventive medicine visit.

Under the Washington Women's Health Act, you may self-refer to any gynecologic condition. Confirm this when you meet with your provider. If you are self-referring for women's health care, make sure you are scheduled for a "pap/pelvic/breast" exam.

Insurance Coverage Issues:

  • Please check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered for yearly preventive medicine visits or women's health pap/pelvic/breast exam. Different insurance policies have different rules for preventive care coverage.

  • Most insurance companies allow for only one annual exam per 12-month period (and some will not pay for a visit even a few days before the your is up).

Medicare Issues

  • Medicare covers paps every two years, mammograms every year, colon cancer screening, and routine vaccinations.
  • If you are considered high risk, Medicare will pay for annual pap smears.
  • Medicare does not cover routine annual exams. You may choose to pay for routine physicals and tests out-of-pocket.

Women's Health Care Center

University of Washington Medical Center-Roosevelt

September 2002


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