what happens during a pap smear?
Pap smears, sometimes called pap smears, are very important tests to find abnormal cells on the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. Pap tests detect cell changes caused by HPV, but they do not detect HPV itself.
Pap smears can be part of your regular checkup, pelvic exam, or well-woman exam. During a Pap test, your doctor or nurse places a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. the speculum is opened to spread the walls of the vagina so they can reach the cervix. They then use a small sample, a tiny spatula or brush, to gently collect cells from your cervix. the cells are sent to a lab for analysis.
Pap smears only take a few minutes. They shouldn’t hurt, but you may feel some discomfort or pressure when your doctor or nurse opens the speculum inside you. You may also feel a slight scratch when cells are removed from your cervix.
do I need a pap smear?
How often you get tested depends on your age, medical history, and the results of your most recent Pap or HPV tests. in general:
If you are between the ages of 21 and 24: you can choose to have a Pap test every 3 years, or you can wait until age 25 to start having the test.
See also: Travel and mental health – GOV.UK
If you are between the ages of 25 and 65: get an hpv test every 5 years, or a pap smear and an hpv test together (cotest) every 5 years. In some places where HPV testing isn’t as widely available, you may only get a Pap test every 3 years.
If you are over 65: You may no longer need HPV/Pap tests.
You may need to be tested more often if you have had problems with your cervix in the past, if you have a weak immune system, or if your mother took a medicine called des while she was pregnant with you. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what tests you need and how often to have them.
what if i have an abnormal pap smear?
If your Pap test results are abnormal, don’t panic. It is quite common to have unclear or abnormal Pap test results. Most of the time, it does not mean you have cervical cancer.
an unclear test result means that the cells of the cervix appear to be abnormal. but it is not clear if it is related to hpv or something else. unclear results are also called equivocal, inconclusive, or asc-us.
An abnormal Pap test result means there are abnormal cell changes in the cervix. this does not mean that you definitely have cervical cancer. changes can be minor (low grade) or severe (high grade). More serious changes are often called precancerous because they are not cancer yet, but can become cancer over time.
If you have an unclear or abnormal Pap test result, you may need further testing and/or treatment, including:
another pap smear
an hpv test: a test that looks for high-risk types of the virus that can cause precancerous cells
a colposcopy: a special test to take a closer look at the cervix to see if there are any precancerous cells.
If your doctor finds abnormal cells during your colposcopy, you probably need treatment. common treatments include cryotherapy and sleep.
where can I go for a pap smear?
You can get a Pap test at your doctor’s or nurse’s office, community health clinic, local health department, or family planning health center.
more patient questions: