Posts for tag: Pap Smear
What is a Pap smear?
A pap smear is a simple diagnostic test that involves collecting cells from the cervix to look for precancerous and cancerous cells. By keeping up with routine pap smears, an OBGYN can detect early and suspicious changes in cervical cells to provide early interventions to remove the cells before they turn cancerous. A pap smear is not the same thing as a pelvic exam.
Do I need a Pap smear?
If you are a woman then the answer is “yes”. Every woman will need to get regular Pap smears from an OBGYN, as this is the best tool for catching precancerous cells before they turn cancerous. So, just how often do you need a Pap smear? The most recent recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that,
- Women between the ages of 21 to 29 should get one every three years
- Women between the ages of 30 to 65 should get one (along with an HPV test) every five years
- Women with weakened immune systems (or women with HIV), as well as women who’ve had precancerous cells in the past, may need to come in more often for Pap smears (this is something you’ll want to discuss with your gynecologist)
Getting abnormal results back doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer. Many women will deal with an abnormal Pap smear at some point and it won’t be due to cervical cancer. Other problems that can cause abnormal Pap results include:
- STIs such as herpes (HSV-2), trichomoniasis, and the human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Recent sexual activity
Whether you need to schedule an appointment for you or your teen daughter, an OBGYN is going to be an invaluable part of your medical team, providing everything from support and advice to annual checkups and Pap smears. It’s important that everyone find a gynecologist that they trust.
What is the purpose of a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is the best tool at our disposal for being able to detect precancerous cells within the cervix. By catching these cells early, we can remove them before they turn into cervical cancer.
When should a woman get her first Pap smear?
Women should start getting regular Pap smears from their OBGYN once they reach 21 years old, or once they become sexually active. Women will continue to get Pap smears until 65 years old.
How often should women get tested?
Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get tested every three years. Once you reach age 30 you should get tested every five years (often alongside an HPV test). Women who have had abnormal Pap results in the past may need to come more often for testing.
Will it hurt?
While getting a Pap smear may feel a bit weird or maybe even a little uncomfortable (especially the first time when you’re not sure exactly what to expect), it shouldn’t hurt. You may notice a slight pinch but that’s usually about it. While a traditional OBGYN screening will usually take up to 20 minutes to perform, the Pap smear itself usually takes just a couple of minutes.
How quickly will I get results back?
It’s typical to get your results within one week after your test, but your OBGYN will let you know when results will be available to you.
Do abnormal or inconclusive results mean that I have cervical cancer?
Not typically. An inconclusive test just means that the sample that we collected wasn’t useable. This can happen if you’ve been sexually active or used tampons with two days before your test. Your doctor will usually recommend repeating the test.
Abnormal results, while stressful, could be due to inflammation, infections, trichomoniasis, HPV or herpes. If your tests are abnormal your doctor will discuss further testing with you or provide you with proper medication if an infection is found.
If you still have questions about Pap smears, don’t hesitate to call your OBGYN. We are here to make sure that you fully understand any and all care you receive at our office.
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.