Generally, doctors recommend that women over the age of 21 get an annual pelvic exam. When you’re dealing with endometriosis, though, these exams may be required with higher frequency. This is why you need to know what the assessment entails and how it helps your doctor to monitor your condition.
What Happens In A Pelvic Exam
A pelvic exam is a medical assessment in which a doctor or nurse will check your vulva and reproductive organs. During this exam, they’ll determine if you have any abnormal growths, discharge, or irritation. The exam typically has three or four parts and lasts for 15-20 minutes. While some aspects can be uncomfortable, a pelvic exam should never be painful. If anything hurts, you need to let your doctor know.
In the first part of the pelvic exam, your doctor will inspect your vulva for any abnormalities. The second part is a speculum exam where they will gently place a speculum in your vagina to get a better view of your cervix. If you’re undergoing a Pap smear, then this is when a sample of your cervical cells will be collected with a small spatula or brush.
In the third part, your doctor carries out a bimanual exam where they place one or two gloved fingers inside your vagina while pressing down on your abdomen with their other hand. This is how they will assess the condition of your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. A bimanual exam can show if you have cysts, tumors, unexplained pain, an infection, or enlarged ovaries.
The final part of your pelvic exam is optional and your doctor may decide you don’t need it. In the rectovaginal exam, your doctor places a gloved finger into your rectum and may put another inside your vagina. They typically do this to check for growths behind the uterus, in the rectum, or on the lower wall of the vagina.
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Why They’re Required For Endometriosis
You usually need a pelvic exam to determine whether or not you have endometriosis but that’s not the last one you’ll have. Endometriosis causes the growth of endometrial tissues outside of the uterus and that can result in different changes. You may have painful spots, nodules, cysts, and scarring. These issues can get worse if your condition progresses so your doctor needs to keep checking for them.
It’s important to note that this can happen even if you’re following the regimen that your doctor prescribed or if you’ve had surgery to remove abnormal tissue. Your doctor will determine the frequency of your pelvic exams so you can ask them to provide a schedule.
Possible Results Of Your Pelvic Exam
If your doctor performed a Pap Smear or collected samples for STD testing, these results will take time. However, there are some issues that your doctor might be able to confirm immediately after completing the assessment.
For example, they can tell if the shape of your uterus has changed or if there are any new growths. Changes in the shape of your uterus can