A pap smear is a routine exam that tests for cervical cancer by taking a swab of cells from the cervix. Women generally get their first smear done at the age of 21 and continue to have it done every three years afterward. Here’s what to know as you head in to see the gynecologist for your first pap test.
What to Expect
This short test is simple and noninvasive. You’ll undress from the waist down, then lie back on the exam table with your legs apart and feet resting in the stirrups. The gynecologist will insert a lubed cylindrical device called a “speculum” into your vagina, which holds the walls apart and allows access to the cervix.
The doctor will then insert a scraping spatula or a brush to gently scrape off some cells from the cervix, which is the lowest part of the uterus just above the vagina. Patients generally feel some pressure, but no pain or discomfort. Patients can leave the office immediately after the exam and continue the day as normal.
How to Prepare
Schedule the pap smear for a time when you’re not menstruating since the blood can make the results less accurate. Avoid using any vaginal medicines, douching, or intercourse for two days before the test. Like menstruating, these activities can impact the abnormal cells the doctor is testing for.
Since there’s some pressure during the exam, you may want to empty your bladder just before the appointment. Ask the doctor first if they’ll need a urine sample. Many women schedule their pap test in conjunction with a pelvic exam or physical, so the doctor may need a sample for another purpose.
What to Ask Your Doctor
Ask the doctor when to expect the results. If only normal cells are found, the doctor will tell you the test was negative. A positive result means unusual cells were found.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate cervical cancer. Several factors can cause a positive result, so the doctor will bring you back in for additional testing to determine what the cells mean.
Take this opportunity to ask any other questions about your reproductive health, such as birth control options or unusual pain you’ve experienced. Ask when they recommend returning for the next test. It’s generally every three years, but they may recommend more frequent testing if you’re considered a higher risk for cervical cancer.
If you’re searching for OB-GYN services, contact Greece OB-GYN, LLP, in Rochester, NY. Their team will take the time to explain your care and what to expect so that you’re comfortable throughout the pap smear. They also have evening hours available to fit your schedule. See their full range of services online, or call (585) 225-6680 to schedule an appointment.