Doctors perform pelvic exams to examine a woman’s pelvis and surrounding organs. Typically, a pelvic exam is the first step in diagnosing gynecologic cancers, which include cancers of the vulva, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and rectum. Our gynecologic oncologists may perform a pelvic exam to determine the exact type and stage of cancer. In addition to cancer, pelvic exams can detect infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Before the exam, it is recommended that you empty your bladder to avoid discomfort. You will be asked to disrobe and put on a gown. While lying on an exam table, your doctor will feel your organs by pressing down on different parts of your stomach and pelvic area.
Once the external exam is complete, you will be asked to place your feet in stirrups and your doctor inserts a speculum into the vagina so the vagina and cervix are visible. A pap smear is performed by quickly brushing the cervix with a plastic spatula, so that a sample of cervical cells will be tested for abnormalities. Once the speculum is removed, your doctor will place two fingers inside the vagina and use the other hand to press down on the pelvic organs in order to note changes in size or shape, which may indicate a problem. In some cases, a rectal exam may also be performed in order to detect possible tumors or other abnormalities.
A pelvic exam usually takes about 10 minutes to perform. It can feel uncomfortable, but should not be painful.
If cancer is found or suspected during a pelvic exam, our Gynecologic Oncology Program provides multiple modalities such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We understand every woman is different, so your treatment plan will include innovative procedures and therapies based on your unique needs and treatment goals.