Women's Health

How to prepare for your pap smear.

Congratulations on booking your pap smear! If you are wondering what a pap test is, click here for my article explaining it!

There are a few things to consider when picking a date for your pap smear. The test is most accurate when at least 2 days have passed since any bleeding from your period, sexual intercourse, or douching. If you prefer a female physician, request one when making your appointment to avoid any surprises!

Wear comfortable, easy to remove clothes. If your doctor also performs a breast exam before your pap smear, you may be asked to remove all clothing. Otherwise, you will be asked to remove everything below the waist. There is no special grooming necessary before this test.

The pap test is uncomfortable but never painful. During your exam, you will be asked to lay on the exam table with your feet in the stirrups. The doctor will use a speculum to separate the vaginal walls so the cervix is visible. If you are worried this may hurt, please do not worry – a speculum is smaller in size than an average tampon and lube is used so the speculum can slide easily into place. Again, this process is uncomfortable but never painful. As the speculum is inserted, I recommend taking a few deep breaths. Your doctor will collect the cells from your cervix using a small brush similar to mascara brush.

After the sample is collected and speculum is slowly removed, the exam is complete. It usually takes about 1-2 weeks for results. Your doctor will notify you when the results are in. The next pap test will be in 3 to 5 years!

Women's Health

What is a Pap test?

The Papanicolau or pap test is a screening test that looks for cancer of the cervix (lowest part of womb). The American Cancer Society estimates that in the year 2020 approximately 13,800 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed and approximately 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer. Thus, it is important to talk to your doctor about obtaining a pap test. 

The United States Preventative Task Force recommends Pap tests for women starting age 21. Pap test is a simple, painless in-office procedure usually completed in 15-20 minutes. During the procedure, your doctor will take cells from the cervix to look for cancer causing virus known as Human Papillomavirus or HPV. This is virus is usually transmitted via sex and frequently diagnosed in women ages 35-44 years old. 

Your doctor may recommend repeating the Pap test every 3 to 5 years depending on the risks. Risk factors for cervical cancer include having multiple sexual partners, smoking and having weak immune system. Cervical cancer is curable if diagnosed early. The chances of developing cervical cancer can be reduced by regular Pap tests and receiving HPV vaccine.

Women rarely develop symptoms from cervical cancer. Some symptoms may include fatigue, pelvic pain, bleeding and pain during sex. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing such symptoms. 

Pap tests may be stopped once a woman reaches age 65 and older if their previous Pap tests were normal. Pap test may also be stopped for women with total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix), if hysterectomy was performed for non-cancerous reasons such as Fibroids (non-cancer tumor of uterus).