Once we hit a certain age, we get on the schedule for all of our health tests. Mammograms, physicals, and pap smears are as regular as clockwork. If you haven’t had a pap smear in a while, or ever, keep reading to learn about them and why you should get on the schedule, too!
What Is the Purpose of a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear (or the Pap test) uses small samples of tissue from your cervix to test for abnormal cells that are either cancerous or precancerous.
How Does It Work?
Pap smears are often done during a regular pelvic exam, so you don’t need to come in for more visits than necessary. In order to see your cervix a member of the Columbus Women’s Care team will insert a speculum (a hinged metal tool) into the vagina. Then, to gather a small number of cells we insert a small brush or medical spatula. This sample is then sent to a lab to be tested and examined for abnormalities such as cancer or HPV (Human Papillomavirus).
Do I Need One If I’m a Virgin?
Generally, we advise asking your physician if they recommend you get a Pap smear if you are a virgin. Though your risk of cervical cancer is lower (due to never having had vaginal sex), you can still develop cervical cancer. Other factors such as smoking or if you have a family history of cervical cancer may mean that a Pap smear is a good idea for you.
Will It Hurt?
No, Pap smears are generally not painful. Tell us if you think you have an infection or an issue that may be causing you pain before your appointment. Though a Pap smear is not painful, you may find it mildly uncomfortable due to needing to wear a paper gown or the speculum. We try to make the process as comfortable as possible, which includes using the proper speculum size and ensuring it’s not cold to the touch.