What should you expect from your first pap smear? According to the U.S. Office on Women's Health, most women need to start this type of reproductive health screening at 21. If you're in your early 20s and haven't had a pap test yet, take a look at what you need to know about the process and your next obgyn visit.
What Should Women Know About the Pap Smear?
The pap smear (a.k.a. pap test) is a screening tool that doctors use to check patients for cervical cancer and precancerous cells. This routine part of obgyn care can help doctors find abnormalities that could potentially turn into cancer. This allows the gynecologist to remove the cells and treat the cervical area to prevent or reduce the risk of cancer development.
What Happens During a Pap Test?
The doctor will use a metal or plastic speculum to open your vagina before starting the test. This is a piece of medical equipment that allows the doctor to perform the exam easily and get a good look at your cervix.
After the speculum is inserted, the doctor may look inside of your vagina. This part of the gynecological exam gives the doctor information on vaginal and cervical health. After the gynecologist visually examines your cervix, they will use a small brush or spatula to gently scrape cells from the visible part of your cervix.
Does a Pap Smear Hurt?
While this test isn't comfortable for most women, it also shouldn't cause serious pain. Some women are more sensitive than others. You may feel sensitivity, pressure, or discomfort when the doctor inserts the speculum or collects cells from your cervix. Speculums come in different sizes. If the speculum feels too tight or hurts, tell your doctor. They may need to use a smaller size or reposition the speculum.
What Happens After a Pap Test?
There are two parts to this question. The first is what happens to the cervical cells after a pap smear? The doctor will send these cells to a lab to look for possible abnormalities.
The second part of this question is what happens to you after the pap smear? If the doctor is finished with the exam, they will remove the speculum and you can get dressed. But if the doctor needs to complete the bimanual part of the exam (feeling inside of the vagina and pelvic region), you will need to wait to get dressed until the doctor is finished.
Some patients may also need additional tests, such as an HPV or other STD tests. HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer in some women. Combined with the pap smear, an HPV test can create a fuller picture of your cervical cancer risk. If you're sexually active or were sexually active and have never had an HPV test (or haven't had one recently), the doctor may recommend this option.
For more information, reach out to a local obgyn clinic, such as Women's Health Specialist PC.