Routine Pap smears, also known as Pap tests, save many lives. In fact, one study showed that cervical cancers detected during such an exam had a 92% cure rate. At the same time, the process isn’t always appealing.
Whether you feel intimidated by having a doctor in close contact with your most intimate parts or have concerns about potential pain, there are ways to make them more comfortable while ensuring a helpful Pap smear experience.
The expert team at Women's Health Services in Arlington, Texas, provides Pap smear testing as part of comprehensive pelvic exams. Take a few minutes to learn more about this test, including tips for making the most of your own.
A Pap smear is a screening test that can detect signs of cervical cancer, a disease that’s often asymptomatic until later stages. Typically performed during routine pelvic exams, the process is pretty straightforward. Once you’re reclined on an exam chair or table, your provider inserts a speculum to gently separate your vaginal walls. From there, they use a thin brush or spatula to collect a small amount of cells from your cervix.
Your cervical cells are then sent to a lab for analysis. If any abnormalities are found, you’ll be asked to come back in for further testing.
Though you may experience mild cramping during your Pap smear, most people tolerate the sensations pretty well. If you’d like to make the test more comfortable, you can:
If your discomfort involves emotional factors, related to sexual trauma for example, let your provider know about your concerns and history so that they can take more time and check in with you on your emotional state throughout your exam. You can also request a female provider, as desired, which we are fully staffed with at Women's Health Services.
Meanwhile, don’t fret over whether or not you’ve waxed or shaved your pubic hair or the general appearance of your genitals. Gynecologists are not phased by such things, and there is no “normal” or “ideal” vulva appearance.
Pap smears tend to be most helpful when you schedule them routinely, which often involves once Pap test every three years between ages 21 and 65. If it’s combined with HPV testing, you may only need a Pap smear every five years starting at age 30.
If you have risk factors, such as a history of abnormal results, cervical cancer, or smoking, you may need Pap smears more frequently. The same holds true if you have HIV or a weakened immune system.
You can also make sure your Pap smear is especially helpful by bringing up any questions or concerns you may have. Lastly, do not use a spermicide or plentiful amounts of lubricant, which can interfere with the test, for 24 hours beforehand.
To learn more about Pap smears or get the care you need, call Women's Health Services, or book an appointment through our website.