A Pap smear, a Pap test, is a common gynaecological procedure used to screen for cervical cancer. It involves collecting cells from the cervix, which are then examined under a microscope to detect any abnormal cells or changes in the cells that may indicate the presence of cancer. This article will discuss what you need to know about Pap smears, including when to get them, how they are performed, and what to expect during and after the procedure.
Why are Pap Smears Important?
Pap smears are important because they can detect early signs of cervical cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in women. Cervical cancer is highly treatable and has a good prognosis when detected early. However, if left undetected and untreated, cervical cancer can spread to other body parts and become more difficult to treat.
Who Needs a Pap Smear?
Women begin receiving Pap smears at age 21, regardless of sexual activity. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap screening every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should receive a Pap smear every three years or a combination of Pap smear and HPV testing every five years.
Women over 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results may be able to stop getting Pap smears. Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may also be able to stop getting Pap smears, depending on the reason for the surgery.
How is a Pap Smear Performed?
A Pap smear is a simple and relatively quick procedure usually performed during a routine gynaecological exam. A gynaecologist or a nurse practitioner may do the exam.
During the procedure, you will lie on your back on an exam table with your feet in stirrups. The healthcare provider will insert a speculum (a tool that holds the vaginal walls apart) into your vagina to allow access to the cervix. They will then use a small brush or spatula to collect cells from the cervix.
What to Expect During and After the Procedure?
You may feel pressure or discomfort during the Pap smear, but the procedure should not be painful. If you experience pain, let your healthcare provider know so they can adjust the speculum.
After the procedure, you may experience some light spotting or cramping. This is typical and should subside in a day or two. If you experience heavy bleeding or severe pain, contact your healthcare provider.
It is also important to note that abnormal Pap smear results do not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer. In many cases, abnormal results are caused by non-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix, such as inflammation or infection. Your healthcare provider will explain your results and recommend any follow-up tests or treatments that may be needed.
Pap smears are an important part of women’s healthcare and can help detect early signs of cervical cancer. It is recommended that women begin receiving Pap smears at age 21 and continue getting them regularly until age 65, or as recommended by their healthcare provider. The procedure is quick and painless; any discomfort should be mild and temporary. Talk to Lifeline Medical Associate healthcare provider if you have any concerns about Pap smears or cervical cancer screening.