Pap and Exam
A pap smear is done to detect changes in the cervix. A pap smear can detect infection, abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer. Some abnormal cells can become cancerous if not detected early enough. The right treatment can prevent most early changes from becoming cancerous.
Your age, lifestyle and health history determine how often you need a pap and exam. If you are sexually active, with more than one partner during the course of a year, have a history, or family history of certain conditions, or have had any STD’s your doctor may want more frequent paps. Most women have an annual exam that includes a pap smear and breast exam as part of their well woman care. For women taking oral contraceptives, you may get a prescription for your birth control pills as part of your pap exam. Even if a woman has had a hysterectomy she should consult with her doctor about pelvic exams. If a woman has a cervix, she should have regular pap exams. These exams continue even after a woman goes through menopause.
Pap exams may also show HPV (human papillomavirus).
To prepare for your pap test, for 24 hours prior to your exam:
- Do not douche
- Do not use vaginal sprays, deodorant sprays or powders
- Do not have intercourse
- Do not use suppositories, spermicides or other chemicals vaginally
If you are on or just starting your period, reschedule your appointment for 10 - 20 days after the first day of your last period. This allows for the doctor to get the best pap smear possible.
A pap test is done by swabbing cells from the cervix while the patient is lying on the exam table with her feet in the stirrups. The doctor inserts a speculum (a device to hold open the walls of the vagina so that the cervix may be seen). The pap exam is usually painless and only takes a few minutes. Cells collected from the cervix are sent to the lab for analysis.
You should get your results in 2 to 3 weeks. Your doctor may order additional tests if your results show changes in the cervical cells. This does not mean that you have cancer. Your doctor will discuss your results with you and make a plan of treatment if necessary. Some changes in these cells may go away on their own and only need to be watched with a second pap in 6 months.
Sometimes your doctor will suggest a biopsy called Endocervical Curettage. This is where a few cells are removed from the cervix with a small spoon shaped tool. This sample can then be analyzed by the lab in greater detail. Your doctor may also order a Colposcopy which uses a large microscope to view the cervix and the cells up close. Often pre-cancerous cells are treated with special procedures in the office that your doctor will discuss with you.
Here at the Woman’s Health Center, we recognize that our patients are sensitive to the expenses involved in their reproductive healthcare. We strive to make these services as affordable as possible. Please contact our office for details on the cost and availability of appointments. Thank you for choosing the Woman’s Health Center for your reproductive care.