Pap Smear Q & A
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is a cancer screening tool developed in the 1940s by a physician named Dr. George Papanicolaou. It’s now the preferred means of detecting cellular changes that indicate cervical cancer. Having routine Pap smears greatly increases the chances of detecting cervical cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most effective.
In addition to screening for cervical cancer, your Pap smear also reveals signs of:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Precancerous cellular activity
Since Pap smears became widely available in the 1950s, deaths from cervical cancer decreased by approximately 74%. Among those American women who receive a diagnosis of cervical cancer, 60-80% did not have a Pap smear in the previous five years or never had a Pap smear.
What is the process like for getting a Pap smear?
Pap smear screening is performed during your routine pelvic exams. Once you’re comfortably reclined with your heels resting in supports, your doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina. This medical tool allows your vaginal walls to be slightly separated so your specialist can examine your cervix.
Next, a thin plastic spatula and a soft brush are used to collect a small portion of cells from your cervix. This might feel like a brief menstrual cramp, but there is no significant or lingering pain. Some women don’t even notice the cell collection step, and the entire process takes very little time.
You may experience some light spotting during the remainder of your day, but you can resume normal activities immediately after your appointment.
How are the results of a Pap smear created?
The collected cells are sent to a medical lab, where they’re examined under a microscope. The lab technicians are trained to detect cellular changes that indicate cervical cancer or precancerous conditions. If those changes or any other abnormalities are detected, you’ll be notified that your Pap smear came back with an abnormal result.
There’s no need to panic if you receive an abnormal Pap smear result. You’ll return to the office for more in-depth screening. Based on the results of those tests, your specialist explains the next steps. Rest assured that early detection gives you a wide range of treatment options, both for cervical cancer and many other gynecologic conditions.
Call or use the online scheduling tool to book your Pap smear today.