Pap smears are an important screening tool for cervical cancer. All girls should have yearly Pap smears beginning at age 21, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women 21 to 29 should get a Pap every two years, then annually from ages 30 to 64.
What’s a Pap Smear?
Pap is not a material; rather, it’s a short version of the title Papanicolaou–the doctor who invented the evaluation.
A pap smear is a scraping of cells from the cervix (the organ that guards the entrance to the uterus( or womb). The cells have been”smeared” on a slide and then viewed under a microscope. Trained technicians determine whether and to what level cancerous cells are present.
You’re at increased risk for cervical cancer if you fall into one or more of the following classes:
- Multiple sexual partners
- HPV disease (herpes)
- Chlamydia (a sexually transmitted infection)
- Being a DES daughter (daughter of a woman who took a medicine called Diethylstilbestrol to avoid miscarriage)
- Starting sexual intercourse at an early age
- Weakened immune system
- Previous cancer of the genital tract
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
Pap smears are fast and painless (for most girls ), but a lot of women avoid them because they call for a pelvic exam. They’re, however, well worth the effort: cervical cancer is relatively common, and early detection can mean the difference between a cure and fatal cancer.
What Can Experts Learn from Pap Smears?
Pap smears provide information about whether a woman has or is very likely to develop cervical cancer. To determine a woman’s status, pathologists detect changes in cervical cells. Abnormalities may suggest that cancer is likely to develop or that cancer has developed.
In many cases, it’s possible to detect and treat developing cancer before it has a opportunity to spread beyond the cervix.
How to Prepare for Your Cervical Exam
Ensuring that you get the most accurate Pap smear results means being properly prepared for your yearly pelvic exam. Follow these easy methods for more accurate Pap smear results.
- Do not use vaginal douches for at least 3 days before your appointment.
- Refrain from sexual intercourse for 48 hours prior to your appointment.
- Don’t use tampons, birth control foams or jellies for 48 hours before your appointment.
- Schedule your appointment about a couple of weeks after you expect your time. If your period starts, call your provider to reschedule.
- Write down any questions you’ve got for your doctor, and take your list to your appointment.
- Don’t forget to inform your physician about any infections, discharges, or pain you have experienced since your last evaluation. If you’ve had previous abnormal Pap smear results she might not have on record, tell her about them. Also be sure to tell her if you know you have been exposed to HPV.
- If you get strange results, get a comprehensive explanation regarding the meaning from your provider. If you don’t know, ask questions.
- Follow your physician’s advice about any additional diagnostic/treatment procedures. Remember, also, that it’s always your right to ask for another opinion.