A Pap test or Pap smear is a gynecological test for women over 21 years of age that checks the state of their reproductive health and is a screening tool for cervical cancer. Cervix is the low, narrow part of the uterus, located in the upper part of the vagina. The test involves a collection of cells found in the cervical wall by a swab, which are later examined for abnormalities or changes in the cells that could show any changes suspicious of cancer transformation.
The procedure is straightforward and does not take longer than a few minutes. A certain amount of pressure and discomfort can be experienced during the procedure, so women sometimes dread and fear their first Pap smear.
To help you prepare for a Pap smear, in this blog post, we have collected important information which can be helpful when it comes to the question of what to expect from a Pap smear test. We will discuss how to prepare for the test, what it looks like, and what happens after the smear test.
When women are preparing for their first Pap smear, they must trust the chosen doctor who will perform the test. Most of gynecological clinics today offer the services of Pap smears. Still, patients have different fears, and it is crucial to select a doctor who will be supportive and comforting, especially during a first Pap. ACE OBGYN LLC team is famous to be patient and supportive with their patients and also known to have Dr Stefan Novac that is experienced in collecting the pap smears, so when you begin to search for a doctor, make sure to also check them out!
Dos and Don’ts Before a Pap Smear
Pap smear testing is generally crucial when it comes to the detection of cervical cancer cells in women. On-time detection gives patients a greater chance of treating the condition and improving their quality of life. The test also detects certain changes in the cervical cells, which can imply a possibility of developing the disease later in life. This helps women prevent the condition’s progress and improve their habits so they can have a healthy, cancer-free life.
There are certain dos and don’ts before a Pap smear, and in the continuation of this article, we are bringing you the most important ones.
When you are planning to schedule a Pap smear, it is essential to avoid the days of your period and to schedule your Pap smear to be done few years after your menstruation is finished. If this is not possible, then you can go ahead and schedule it then, but if you can avoid doing your Pap smear during your period, your Pap test results will be more accurate, and the examination will be easier for both the doctor and yourself.
Also, try to avoid having vaginal intercourse, applying any intravaginal medicine, or douching two or three days before the exam. This is recommended because doing any of these before the exam can interfere with the results.
As this test is mainly described as uncomfortable, for your comfort, try and wear something that can be easily removed during the appointment because the patients are usually asked to take off their clothes during this annual check up. Regarding the “preparation” of your intimate parts, shaving is unnecessary unless that is your personal choice.
To summarize, if you are deliberating on how to prepare for a Pap smear, it is straightforward:
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Do not have intercourse for few days before the test
- Do not douche or apply medical treatments intravaginally few days prior to the test
- Schedule the test few days before or after your period (if possible)
What To Expect From a Pap Smear?
When you have not had the experience of doing a Pap test, it can be nerve-wracking to prepare for your first one. It is very common to be nervous and anxious, but there is no need for that. Doctors usually explain the whole procedure to the patient previously, so they can feel as relaxed and prepared as possible. Below you can find the step-by-step explanation of the process, so you can feel better and calmer when it comes to your first Pap smear:
- The patient undresses and lays down on their back with their feet in the stirrups.
- The doctor uses a speculum to spread (hold) the walls of the vagina open so that they can reach the cervix and get a swab of the cervical cells. A lubricant is often used to ensure that the speculum slides easily into the vagina. The size of the speculum can be compared to a bigger tampon, so if you are sexually active or use tampons during your menstrual cycle, it should not be as painful as you might think.
- After the speculum is placed, you will feel a light pressure in that area, but the more relaxed you are, the less discomfort you will feel.
- After that, the doctor uses a spatula (a small scraping device) to take a sample of the cells. The sensation is not necessarily painful, but you can feel mild discomfort and some pressure.
- When the sample is collected, the doctor takes out the speculum, and it is done. You will get tissue paper to clean up any residue from the lubricant, and afterward, you are free to get dressed and leave.
What Do I Do Afterward?
After your first Pap test, you can breathe easily because it is done! You might feel slight discomfort for a few minutes in the vaginal area, but do not worry; that is normal after tests like these, especially if you are not very sexually active. In case you feel severe pain, please contact your doctor immediately.
The bad news regarding Pap testing is that it is not a one-time event that you do not have to repeat. It is recommended to do the test every one to three years if your results are normal. If the doctors find any abnormalities or you suffer from certain conditions such as HIV, a weakened immune system, cervical cancer, or you are a smoker, you will need to do the test more often.
Regarding the test results, it usually takes four to seven days to hear back from your doctor. They will give you the test results and propose potential treatment plans if the results show abnormalities. During this time, you can ask your chosen doctor any possible questions you might have because they are there to guide you and offer support.
Although a Pap smear is a common procedure used by women worldwide, it is understandable that a first Pap smear can feel uncomfortable and strange. The primary role of your chosen doctor is to relax the patient before doing the test, so make sure you choose a doctor you can trust. Our clinic is here to offer guidance for our patients, so schedule an appointment and visit us! Our team is here for you to make your first Pap experience as positive and comfortable as possible.