A pap smear is also known as a pap test and it is a procedure that is available at medical clinics to test for cervical cancer in women.
During the pap smear, a swab will collect cells from your cervix which is the lower and narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina.
Detecting cervical cancer early with a pap smear helps to offer you a great chance at a cure if you were to have cervical cancer. Detecting abnormal cells early with a pap smear is a female’s first step in halting the possibility of developing cervical cancer.
As previously stated, a pap smear is conducted to screen for cervical cancer. It is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam as well as combined with a test that looks for HPV or the human papillomavirus which is a common sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer.
Our doctor recommends getting a pap smear as early as 21 years of age, and repeating a pap test every three years for women ages 21 to 65 that DO NOT have an abnormal pap test previously.
Women 30 and older can start considering a pap test every five years if the procedure is combined with an HPV test.
If you are at risk of certain factors, your doctor may recommend more frequent pap smears regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
- A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a pap smear that has shown precancerous cells
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
- A weakened immune system due to an organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid shots
- History of smoking
A pap smear is performed at your doctor’s office like at Elite Health Center and can only take a few minutes. Your doctor also may ask a few questions while performing the test to get more indications about your health history.
You will be asked to undress completely or from the waist down, depending on if they want to do a breast exam for cancer as well. You will lie down on your back on the exam table with your knees bent and heels in a support rest called stirrups.
Your doctor will come back into the room once you are on the exam table and covered, and start by gently inserting an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. This speculum will hold the walls of your vagina apart so the doctor has easy access to see your cervix. Inserting the speculum may cause a feeling of pressure in your pelvic area.
Finally, your doctor will take a few samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush and a flat scraping device called a spatula, this generally does not hurt. The doctor will remove the speculum and have you re-dress.
After the pap smear, you are able to go on about your day as normal without any restrictions. Your doctor will send off your samples that were collected to a lab to have them examined, once the doctor gets their lab results back, they will contact you if anything abnormal has appeared.
Normally women above the age of 21 start to receive pap smears from their primary care doctor and continue getting them every 3 years unless otherwise requested by their primary care doctor. Women above the age of 30 will continue having pap smears once every five years, again unless their primary care doctor requests them to come in more often.
If you have any questions about your cervical or pelvic health, or would like to book an appointment with Elite Health Centers primary care doctors, call us today! We are available Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Friday from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Elite Health Center and Family Care is conveniently located at 515 Channing Road Lakeland, FL 33805.
We serve patients from Lakeland FL, Medulla FL, Highland City FL, Eaton Park FL, Youmans FL, and Winston FL.
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