Posts for tag: Pap Smear
At some point all women will need to receive routine pelvic exams in order to check their vaginal and reproductive health. This exam allows your gynecologist to be able to examine the vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus to look for early warning signs of infection or other problems.
Unless otherwise recommended by a physician, most women will undergo their first pelvic exam at the age of 21. After which, this simple exam should become a regular part of your well-woman care.
Getting a Pelvic Exam
We know that any kind of new exam or procedure can make anyone a little nervous. That’s why we want you to know what to expect before coming into the office for your first pelvic exam. Here’s what to expect:
We will provide you with a dressing gown, which you will change into in private. From there, you will lie down on the exam table and place your feet into elevated footrests. You will move your body towards the end of the table and our gynecologist will instruct you on what to do to make sure they can perform the exam. Relaxing as much as possible during the exam is important as it will make the process more comfortable for you.
There are usually three different parts involved in a pelvic exam:
- The external exam: This allows us to look at the external tissue of the vulva to detect any irritation, abnormal discharge or warning signs of other problems like genital warts or cysts.
- The internal exam: A special instrument known as a speculum will be carefully inserted into the vagina to open up the walls so that your gynecologist can examine the uterus and cervix. Sometimes a small brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix for testing. This is known as a Pap smear and it allows your doctor to check for precancerous and cancerous cervical cells.
- The bimanual exam: The speculum is removed and your gynecologist will then place one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and press on the abdomen to check the size and shape of the uterus and to feel for any enlargements, tenderness, or pain.
While the first pelvic exam may feel a bit awkward and weird it should never feel painful or uncomfortable. If you are experiencing any discomfort please let us know. We will talk you through the entire process so you know what’s going to happen before it does. If you have any questions or concerns for us this is also the time to let us know.
How often should I get a pelvic exam?
This will depend on several factors. Based on your current health, medical history and any past medical test results we will determine whether you will only need to come in once a year or whether you could benefit from visiting us more often.
Why are Pap Smears Necessary?
If you are age 21 or older, you may be asked to get a pap smear. It’s also called a pap test, and it’s a common procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. It is a routine procedure performed in the office during which cells are collected from your cervix.
Cervical cancer is a serious condition which often has no symptoms initially, until it’s in the later stages. A pap smear is a vital tool in detecting cervical cancer in the early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. A pap smear can also find changes in your cervical cells which may indicate cancer developing at some point in the future.
When you reach age 21 or older, your doctor may recommend a pap test, usually performed along with a pelvic examination. In some cases, the pap test is combined with an HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted condition known to cause cervical cancer.
The pap smear recommendations for healthy women are:
- The first pap smear at age 21
- A pap smear every 3 years if you are ages 21 to 65
- A pap smear every 5 years if combined with an HPV test and you are age 30 or older
Having more frequent pap smears may be indicated if you have risk factors, including:
- An HIV infection
- An abnormal pap smear showing precancerous cells
- A history of smoking
- A weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or corticosteroid use
To get ready for a pap smear, there are certain guidelines you should follow. Remember to:
- Avoid having sexual intercourse, using a douche, or any vaginal medications or spermicidal products including foams, creams, or gels for at least 2 days before your test.
- Avoid scheduling a pap smear during your menstrual period
A pap smear is a necessary part of protecting women’s health. The test is important because it is the only definitive way to diagnose cervical cancer in the early stages. Early diagnosis is critical to early treatment, which can lead to a better outcome for you.