During a classic pelvic exam, your doctor will be checking for your overall pelvic health, including talking to you and asking questions. During the physical portion of the exam, one of the things your doctor will do is push on the outside of your abdomen in order to feel your organs from the outside. He or she is checking for swelling, tender areas, and abnormalities. Then, the doctor will look inside your vagina, again, checking for any visual abnormalities. During this time a pap smear will be completed. The purpose of the pap smear is to get a small sample of cells from the cervix. The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be screened for pre-cancerous, cancerous, or otherwise suspicious cells. Before the exam is finished, the doctor will insert one or two fingers into your vagina while pushing down on the outside of your abdomen checking, again, for anything abnormal or painful. Additionally, a breast exam is performed to check for bumps, cysts, or pain.
If you have had a hysterectomy but still have your cervix, a pelvic exam (including a pap smear) is still important as the pap smear is checking cells from the cervix. If you have had a hysterectomy and do not have a cervix, then obviously you do not need a cervical pap smear. But this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely– you might not have a uterus but a pelvic exam will still be recommended to check for overall vaginal health, especially if you have had a history of abnormal pap smears. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to discuss your questions with the doctor or talk about menopause and/or balancing hormones.