Annual Doctor Visit
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The Physical Exam

A physical exam usually consists of the following:

  • Health History: This is a chance for you to mention any past or ongoing health complaints or concerns to your doctor. Your doctor may also take this opportunity to ask you about your current lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking, sexual health, diet, and exercise. Your vaccination status and family history will also be updated at this point.
  • Vital Sign Check: Your doctor will likely check your blood pressure (normal is 120/80 mmHg), your heart rate (60-100 beats per minute is a normal range), your respiration rate, and your temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the average).
  • General Appearance: Your doctor can gather a lot of information based on your interactions with him/her. They may assess your skin tone, your mental awareness, your rate of speech, posture, etc.
  • Heart Test: Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to the rhythm of your heart for any hint of irregular sounds.
  • Lung Test: Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen for crackles, wheezing, or reduced sound.
  • Head and Neck Exam: The “open your mouth and say ah” test helps the doctor view your tonsils, throat, and gums for any irregularities.
  • Abdominal Exam: Your doctor may use a number of techniques to determine your abdominal and organ health.


Male Exam Additions:

o   Testicular/Penis Exam: Your doctor will look and feel for bumps, lumps, and tenderness in this area to determine if further testing needs to be done.

o   Hernia Exam: Your doctor will use different techniques to check for weakness in your abdominal wall.

o   Prostate Exam: Your doctor will place a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for size and/or tenderness.


Female Exam Additions:

o   Breast Exam: Your doctor may feel the breasts and lymph nodes for abnormal lumps, and look at the area for visual abnormalities. A mammogram (x-ray of the breast) may be used to further screen for potential cancer.

o   Pelvic Exam: A Pap Smear test and an HPV test may be used to screen for cervical cancer and help assess risk.


Depending on the doctor, further laboratory tests may be ordered, although this is not always routine practice. Some examples of further tests include: urine analysis, blood tests, cholesterol tests, blood sugar tests, and diagnostic imaging. It is important to remember that the annual physical exam’s purpose is to focus on screening and prevention of future health issues.

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