Beginning at around age 21, you should have a Pap smear as part of your annual gynecologic well-woman exam. A Pap smear checks for changes in your cervix that could eventually develop into cervical cancer.
A Pap smear is a simple but important test. In the past, cervical cancer was a leading cause of death in women. But since the development of the Pap smear, also known as the Pap test, cervical cancer has become far less prevalent.
In 2020, an estimated 13,800 cases of cervical cancer will occur in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Our all-female care providers at Virtuosa GYN in San Antonio, Texas, would like to tell you what you can expect during your first Pap smear.
Your cervix is the tube-shaped area between your uterus and your vagina. It is lined with cells that, if they become abnormal, can begin growing out of control. Eventually, these abnormal cells could become cancerous.
By doing a Pap test, we can find abnormal cell changes and treat you early, before these cells become cancerous.
Here’s what you can expect during your first Pap smear.
The test takes place during your pelvic exam, also known as an internal exam. During the pelvic exam, we use an instrument called a speculum to look into your vagina and cervix.
To conduct a Pap smear, we use a thin, gentle brush to collect cells from your cervix. We insert the brush into your cervix through the speculum. It takes us only a second or two to gather some cervical cells with the brush.
A Pap smear doesn’t hurt, although the speculum may feel slightly uncomfortable.
After collecting cell samples, we send them to a laboratory for testing. Results are typically available within a week or two.
Most Pap test results are normal. But if you receive abnormal results, don’t be too alarmed. Having abnormal test results doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. It simply means you may require further testing.
Pap tests may return abnormal results for reasons other than cancer, such as infections or noncancerous growths.
If you receive abnormal Pap test results, we may recommend watchful waiting, another Pap test, or other types of tests that look more closely at the types of cells in your cervix. If cells need to be removed, we may recommend a treatment known as ablation.
If your test results are normal, you don’t need another routine Pap smear for three years.
One of the best ways to protect your gynecologic health is to have yearly well-woman exams. We let you know if it’s time for you to have a Pap test. Call us today to schedule a gynecological exam in our San Antonio, Texas, office.