Pap Smear Test Questions and Answers
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Women’s health is a wide and varied branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and conditions that can negatively impact a woman’s physical or emotional well-being. One such preventive measure is a Pap smear. This has proven to have been more successful than any other screening test used in the detection or prevention of cancer and, since becoming more widely used, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped significantly.
What is a Pap smear and how is it done?
A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a routine screening procedure used to detect cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is named after Dr Georgios Papanikolaou who invented it in the 1920s and today remains the most widely used and effective method in the early detection of cervical cancer and HPV.
During a Pap smear a sample of cells is collected from the cervix (the narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina) and are examined microscopically to look for abnormal growth. The test itself can be a bit uncomfortable, but it is very quick. The patient lies on their back on an examination table with their legs spread and feet resting in supports called stirrups. The doctor gently inserts a device called a speculum into the vagina to keep the vaginal walls open and provide access to the cervix. Cervical cells are then collected by using either:
- a tool called a spatula.
- a spatula and a brush.
- a combination spatula and brush called a cytobrush
Most women feel a slight push and irritation during the test as the cervix is scraped, but it is typically not painful.
When should you get a Pap smear?
Women should get their first Pap smear done at the age of 21. Between the ages of 21-29, those women whose Pap smears are normal need only have a test every three years. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of cervical cancer, and women aged 30 and over should also be tested for this with their Pap smear. Once it is confirmed that HPV is not present, the patient can move her Pap smears to every five years (although she should still have an annual gynecological physical exam). These are general guidelines, however, and more frequent testing will be needed if precancerous cells are detected, or if the patient tests positive for HPV.
What is the purpose of a Pap smear?
The purpose of a Pap smear is to detect the presence of abnormal, precancerous cells on a woman’s cervix and is also used to test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.
What do I need to know before a Pap smear?
Whilst there is not much preparation needed prior to a Pap smear, the most important things to remember are that you shouldn’t have sex, use tampons or douche in the 24 hours before the test. Another important consideration is your menstrual cycle. Try not to schedule the test while you are having your period as blood can make the results less accurate. If you have unexpected bleeding don’t cancel the test as your provider will decide if the test can go ahead. Some birth control pills containing estrogen or progestin may affect test results so tell your provider which medications you are taking, and also let them know if you may be pregnant or have had an abnormal Pap test in the past. If you, or a loved one, have questions or concerns surrounding Pap smears contact Smart Choice Medical Clinic today! Our clinic has a strong emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention and many of our services are available in-office and via telemedicine. At Smart Choice, we’re patient-centered, and we treat each patient with dignity, respect, and appreciation. We also have a unique model of healthcare along with a cost-saving membership option! Call us or schedule an appointment online. We serve patients from Tyler TX, Bullard TX, Troup TX, Dogwood City TX, Whitehouse TX, Gresham TX, Flint TX and Jacksonville TX.