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At what age should a teen girl like me start breast and pelvic exams?

Nicole McHugh
Neonatal Nursing

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that females start getting Pap tests (a screening test for abnormal cervical cells) at the age of 21. Usually, a girl does not need to have a pelvic (internal) exam until then, unless she is experiencing some symptom(s) that may warrant an examination earlier than age 21 (such as an infection, very painful periods, pelvic pain, or possible pregnancy to name a few).

Whether or not you choose to perform self-breast exam (SBE) is up to you. SBE is somewhat of a controversial topic right now. Some reputable organizations do not recommend that a woman perform SBE, and other reputable organizations DO recommend monthly exams to help in early detection of breast cancer and other breast disorders. 

If you do choose to perform SBE, you should do this each month (starting around age 20) about five days after your period starts (which is when the breast tissue is the least swollen and tender). The proper technique can be found on the website www.acog.org. 

Clinical breast exam should be done annually by your gynecologist, Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Midwife annually starting at age 20.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
A young woman should start routine screening breast exam and pap smears as part of a pelvic exam at age 21 or at 3 years after starting to have sex. Routine screening is a test that is given to a group of people, in this case women, even if they have no symptoms.
If a girl who is younger than 21 or who is not having sex has a problem, she should see her health care provider, gynecologist or nurse practitioner, at any age. This problem might be feeling a lump in her breast. The problem might be heavy bleeding or bad cramps with her period or it could be a change in her periods that bothers her.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.