June 5, 2023
What You Should Know About Pap Smears
Approximately 13,000 women receive a cervical cancer diagnosis each year. Luckily, two-thirds of them go on to live entire, healthy lives. Preventative screening tests like pap smears are crucial for early detection.
When was your last pap test?
At MiBella Wellness, we understand that gynecological testing can be stressful, and you might be nervous about making an appointment. We’ve created this brief guide to address your concerns about undergoing this simple test. We hope we can convince you to make an appointment and put your health in your hands.
Read on to learn the answers to common questions about pap smears.
Understanding Pap Smears
Your MiBella Wellness Center gynecologist recommends that all healthy adult women undergo preventative testing once every three to five years. This testing will include a pap smear during your pelvic exam.
During this test, your doctor will collect a small tissue sample from your cervix to check for changes or abnormalities, including early signs of cervical cancer. This test can also detect HPV, which can lead to cancer. Ultimately, we aim to catch any problems before they impact your life.
HPV and Its Role in Cervical Cancer
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of related viruses, some of which are linked to cervical cancer. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV types can lead to cellular changes in the cervix. It’s these changes that Pap smears aim to detect.
However, it’s essential to understand that not all HPV infections lead to cancer. The body often clears the virus naturally within a couple of years. Nonetheless, knowing your HPV status can help assess the risk and inform decisions about the frequency of screening
Frequency: How Often Should You Get One?
Guidelines recommend that women begin their Pap tests at age 21. From ages 21 to 29, women should get a Pap smear every three years, provided they have normal results. From 30 to 65, the frequency can reduce to every five years if combined with HPV testing.
It’s worth noting that these are general recommendations. Depending on individual risk factors and medical history, your healthcare provider may suggest a different screening schedule.
Preparing For Your Pap Smear
If possible, avoid intercourse for about 48 hours before undergoing a pap smear. We prefer you avoid using douches and other vaginal hygiene products before your test. If you expect to have your menstrual period during your gynecological exam, it’s appropriate to reschedule.
Do Pap Smears Hurt?
The good news is that pap smears generally are not painful. Some women experience mild discomfort. If you’re getting your first pap smear or experiencing your first pelvic exam, pain often stems from nerves, so try to relax.
During the test, your doctor will use a speculum to widen your vagina. For most women, this is the most uncomfortable part of the test.
Next, your doctor will shine a light into your vagina to make it easier to see the cervix. She will use a small brush to collect a sample of cells. It may feel like a quick pinch.
Many gynecologists wait to perform the test at the end of your exam. You can often get dressed and resume normal activities immediately.
Your doctor will send the sample to the lab, where a technician will check for abnormalities or changes. The office will call you with your results. Please make a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings.
Conclusion: Empowering Your Health Decisions
Pap smears, while a routine procedure, are a cornerstone of women’s health. They play an instrumental role in early cancer detection, emphasizing the importance of regular screenings. By staying informed and proactive, you can make empowered decisions about your reproductive health.
At MiBella Wellness, we aim to ensure our patients live entire, pain-free lives. That begins with preventative gynecological tests like pap smears. We promise to do our best to make your experience quick, comfortable, and stress-free.
Our experienced and compassionate practitioners offer a range of women’s health services that can ensure you feel your best.