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Annual Physical Examinations

Annual Physical Exam: The Basics continued...

Head and Neck Exam. Opening up and saying "ah" shows off your throat and tonsils. The quality of your teeth and gums also provides information about your overall health. Ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries may also be examined.

Abdominal Exam. Your doctor can use a range of examination techniques including tapping your abdomen to detect liver size and presence of abdominal fluid, listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope, and palpating for tenderness.

Neurological Exam. Nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance, and mental state may be assessed.

Dermatological Exam. Skin and nail findings could indicate a dermatological problem or disease somewhere else in the body.

Extremities Exam. Your doctor will look for physical and sensory changes. Pulses can be checked in your arms and legs. Examining joints can assess for abnormalities.

Male Physical Exam

An annual physical exam for men might also include:

  • Testicular exam: A doctor can check each testicle for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. Most men with testicular cancer notice a growth before seeing a doctor.
  • Hernia exam: The famous "turn your head and cough" checks for a weakness in the abdominal wall between the intestines and scrotum.
  • Penis exam: A doctor might notice evidence of sexually transmitted infections such as warts or ulcers on the penis.
  • Prostate exam: Inserting a finger in the rectum lets a doctor feel the prostate for its size and any suspicious areas.

Female Physical Exam

A woman's annual exam might include:

  • Breast exam. Feeling for abnormal lumps may detect breast cancer or benign breast conditions. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes in the underarm area and look for visual abnormalities of the breasts and nipples.
  • Pelvic exam: The pelvic exam allows examination of the vulva, vagina, and cervix. Routine checks for sexually transmitted infections are often done. A Pap test and HPV test can screen for cervical cancer and help assess risk.

Laboratory Tests

There are no standard laboratory tests during an annual physical. However, some doctors will order certain tests routinely:

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