What to Expect from a Pap Smear Procedure

While a pap smear procedure is never a fun experience, it's not painful or terribly uncomfortable. Since this procedure is essential for detecting HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer, you'll need to endure the unpleasantness of a pap smear annually until you turn 30 years of age, and then every two to three years for the rest of your life. If all of your pap smear results have been normal, you may be able to stop getting pap smears sometime in your 60s.

You'll want to schedule your pap smear when you do not have your period. It's best to get tested mid-cycle. You'll also want to abstain from having sex, douching, using vaginal suppositories or medications and from using tampons for two days before your test.

When you enter the examination room in the doctor's office, you'll be asked to change out of your clothes and into a robe. You will most likely get a breast exam during the appointment and will answer questions about your general health.

After you express your concerns or ask questions, the doctor will have you lie down on your back and place your feet in stirrups at the end of the examination table. The doctor will keep a blanket or sheet over your lower abdomen and upper thighs for privacy, and will ask you to spread your legs enough for him or her to access your vagina. Your doctor will use a speculum to open your vagina enough to be able to swab your cervix with a long Q-tip to collect sample cervical cells. The cells the doctor collects will be wiped onto a clear glass slide, which will be examined by a trained medical technician who can identify normal and abnormal cervical cells.

The entire procedure only takes a moment or two. While it can be slightly uncomfortable, it is not painful at all. Pap smears can save your life. Approximately 3,000 women die from cervical cancer each year, so it important to detect cervical cancer early so appropriate treatment can be undertaken.

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Learning that your pap smear results are abnormal isn't necessarily reason to panic, so don't jump to the conclusion that you have cervical cancer. Around half of abnormal results point to minor cervical conditions that aren't cause for worry, but do follow up with your doctor to determine a plan for an exact diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you receive a notice saying you have abnormal pap smear results, do not panic. This does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer.

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Pap smears are minimally invasive, painless ways to check for abnormal cervical cells.

Most women dread going through a yearly pelvic exam and Pap test. The annual check can potentially save your life, so women need to understand the process and follow up procedures and what to do if abnormal pap smears result.

While pap smears are conducted as preventative measures to detect human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer, there are many reasons for abnormal pap smear results that don't automatically mean you have cervical cancer.

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