“As a female doctor, we have a keen interest in women’s health issues. We understand what women worry about and what women should worry about. We offer gentle, discreet and professional medical care to women from puberty to menopause and every stage in between.”
Pap smears are an essential part of women’s health maintenance. If you’d rather have a root canal than a Pap smear, you’re in good company! However, although most women dread them, a Pap smear appointment is actually the ideal time to discuss any unusual symptoms or ask a question that you may have been wondering about, including questions about sexuality, breast health issues, menstrual issues or any other subject related to female health and/or reproduction. There is no question that you can’t ask us and, being a female doctor, we will understand if you have had a “bad experience” with Pap smears in the past. I’m here to ensure that your Pap smear experience is a positive one going forward.
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is a procedure performed to obtain a small sample of fluid from the cervix (the lower portion of the uterus extending into the vagina). The sample containing cells is applied to a slide (smeared onto the slide), which is then examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells that may indicate precancerous or malignant (cancerous) changes. The purpose is to identify abnormal cells and treat them at the earliest stage. Cervical cancer is highly treatable when caught early.
How often do I need a Pap smear?
How often you should have a Pap smear is dependent on your age, your health and your personal risk factors. Healthy women with few or no risk factors for cervical cancer should have a Pap smear every 3 years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Women who have a high risk of developing cervical cancer may require more frequent screening. Together, we can determine whether you have any risk factors for this type of cancer and decide how often you should have a Pap test. It is also important to note that if you have been vaccinated against HPV, you should still be routinely screened for cervical cancer.
A word about HPV
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI (sexually transmitted infection) in the United States. The virus can cause both genital warts and cervical cancer. Unfortunately, many people who have HPV do not develop any symptoms and are unaware that they carry the virus; thus they unknowingly pass the infection on to their sexual partner(s).
What should I expect during a Pap smear?
If you are having a Pap smear, we will ask you to change into a gown. You will be positioned lying on your back on an examination table. Your feet may be placed in stirrups, which help to keep you positioned appropriately for the test. Of course, you will be covered with a sheet for modesty.
To start, we will examine the outer genitalia for any abnormalities. We will then insert a lubricated speculum into the vagina. The speculum is an instrument with a light attached that allows the physician to view the inner vagina and cervix. A small brush is then inserted into the vagina up to the opening of the cervix and a small sample is collected. A second sample is collected from the area surrounding the cervix. The samples are applied to glass slides and a fixative is sprayed so that the cells can be viewed under a microscope.
The last part of the Pap smear is the pelvic exam. We will place two fingers of one hand in the vagina while palpating your abdomen with the other hand. This is done to assess the size, shape and contour of your ovaries and uterus.
It is important to avoid douching or use of spermicidal jellies, creams or foams prior to your Pap smear, as these products may alter results. It is best not to schedule your test during your menstrual period unless it cannot be avoided.
We make it a point to explain everything that is happening during the exam. If it is your first time having a Pap smear, or if you are very nervous, be sure to let us know. We care about your comfort and want to make you as comfortable as possible.
A Pap smear is an important part of every woman’s health maintenance routine. Cervical cancer, when detected early, can be easily treated. Due for your Pap test? Book your appointment today.