Medical Chaperones for Sensitive Exams and Procedures: Frequently Asked Questions


We understand that certain medical exams and procedures are more sensitive than others and we want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Our trained chaperones help ensure that sensitive exams and procedures are safe, comfortable and considerate.

What is considered a “sensitive” exam or procedure?

A sensitive procedure involves a physical examination of the breasts, genitalia or rectum. Examples include breast, vaginal, penile, scrotal or rectal exams.

What does the chaperone do?

The chaperone is a specially trained member of the clinical team who enhances the patient’s and provider’s comfort, safety, privacy, security and dignity during sensitive exams or procedures. The chaperone is trained to observe for signs of pain or discomfort, answer questions during the exam, and assists as needed.

Can I decline to have a chaperone present during my exam or procedure?

Adults who are able to make their own medical decisions have the right to decline having a chaperone present during their exams or procedures. You can opt out when you arrive at your appointment. In some cases, the health care provider may decide not to perform a particular exam or procedure without a chaperone present. 


When might I have a pelvic exam or Pap test?

Patients typically have a first pelvic exam upon experiencing symptoms such as discharge or pain, or at the age of 21.

What can I expect during a pelvic exam or Pap test?

  • External exam: The provider makes a visual examination using a gloved hand to check for lumps or bumps in and around your vagina. You will lie on an exam table with paper or cloth covering over the lower half of your body and with your feet in foot rests (stirrups) or placed at the end of the exam table. 

  • Speculum exam: The provider will gently insert a duck bill-shaped instrument into your vagina to see the vaginal canal and cervix. If you are over age 21, the provider may also conduct a Pap test by using a thin plastic brush to collect cells from your cervix. Additionally, they may collect a swab to test for infections or check vaginal discharge.

  • Bimanual exam: The provider may perform a bimanual exam if you are experiencing pain or other symptoms in your lower abdomen and reproductive organs. They will insert one or two gloved fingers into your vagina while using the other hand to gently apply pressure and push on the lower part of your belly to check the size and placement of your ovaries and uterus. The provider may gently move your cervix from side-to-side with their fingers to check for signs of infection. The provider may also use one finger to check pelvic floor muscles for tenderness due to muscle spasm.

When might I have a rectal exam?

Providers may perform rectal exams if you have pain in the lower abdomen and reproductive organs, blood in the stool, or other gastrointestinal or rectal symptoms. Rectal exams also test for sexually transmitted infections of the rectum. During a rectal exam, you will lie on your side, lie down with your feet in foot rests (stirrups), or kneel on the examination table.

What types of rectal exams are there?

  • External exam: The provider visually examines the anus and surrounding area to look for sores, rashes and bumps, sometimes using a light to see better. The provider may collect tests for sexually transmitted infections by placing a cotton swab approximately 1 inch into the rectum, then gently rotating and removing the swab.

  • Digital exam: The provider inserts one gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum, to check for lumps or abnormalities. 

  • Anoscope exam: The provider uses a hollow tube-like instrument, 3-5 inches long, to examine the anus and rectum closely. The lubricated anoscope is gently inserted into the rectum and slowly withdrawn as the provider examines the rectal canal. To ease the placement of the anoscope, the provider may ask the patient to tense and relax internal muscles (as if having a bowel movement) during insertion. The provider may position a light or ask a medical assistant to hold a light during the procedure.

When might I have a breast exam?

You may receive a breast exam for breast issues such as pain or lumps. If you are over age 25, providers may also offer you a screening breast exam based on your personal and family risk assessment. 

What can I expect during a breast exam?

  • Visual exam: You will raise your arms above your head so the provider can check for differences in size or shape between breasts as well as signs of rash, dimpling, etc. You may be in a seated position or lying on an exam table.

  • Manual exam: For this exam, your provider may or may not use gloves. The provider uses the pads of the fingers to press on your entire breast, underarm, and collarbone area to check for lumps or abnormalities. Providers also check for enlarged lymph nodes under your armpit. 

When might I have a genital exam?

You may have a genital exam to check for hernia if you are experiencing pain, swelling or discharge, or if you have sores or other unusual symptoms. 

What types of genital exams are there?

  • Pubic/groin region and hernia exam: the provider visually examines the groin and places gloved fingers on the area to check for abnormalities.

  • Penile/scrotal exam: the provider visually examines the area and uses a gloved hand to check for pain, sores or other unusual symptoms.

Note: Some patients develop erections during examination. This is completely normal as erections can result from anxiety, temperature changes or a reflex to touch. Providers may ask uncircumcised patients to move the foreskin back to examine all surfaces of the penis for sores and lesions. The provider may also examine the opening of the penis (urethra).