A pap smear commonly occurs in conjunction with a woman’s annual exam and isn’t something we all look forward to. From the name to the actual procedure, they just have an all-around lousy rap. Although, the importance of pap smears is evident in the vital role in women’s health they play.
What is a Pap Smear?
The procedure for the pap smear occurs in your gynecologist’s office and lasts a few minutes. You will first undress from your waist down in most cases. You’ll then lie down on your back with both knees bent, and your heels will rest in the stirrups for support.
Your doctor will gently insert a speculum inside your vagina. The speculum is an instrument that holds the walls of your vagina apart so that your doctor can easily see your cervix. You may feel some pressure during insertion, but that is normal. Once your cervix is visible, your provider will gather samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush and a flat scraping device known as a spatula. This usually doesn’t cause any pain.
What is the Importance of a Pap Smear?
A pap smear helps to check for precancers and cell changes on the cervix that may develop into cervical cancer without appropriate treatment. The test may occur along with the test for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. It is also the leading cause of cervical cancer.
Most doctors advise pap smears starting at the age of 21, repeating every 3-5 years depending on age and if an HPV test is done as well. Certain risk factors such as a cancer history, smoking, and HIV may warrant them to be done more frequently.
A pap smear is a simple procedure, yet it can be lifesaving. If you’ve been putting off your pap smear, Women’s Health Care Research can help. Call to schedule an appointment today at (858) 505-8672. Our staff can also give you information on how you can get involved in pap smear research studies to advance women’s medicine.