Every woman should have a Pap smear done by the time they are in their early 20s. A Pap smear is a procedure done in a gynecologist’s office that tests for cervical cancer. The test is a quick procedure that involves a doctor collecting cells from the cervix and sending them off to a lab for evaluation. Women are encouraged to see their gynecologist once a year for their annual exam. The reason behind this timing is that a Pap smear can detect changes in the cervical cells that suggest that cancer may develop in the future. Early detection of cancer or abnormal cells with a Pap smear is the first step in halting the development of cervical cancer.
While most women would agree that a Pap smear is not the most enjoyable medical procedure that they have ever had done, most will also tell you that it is relatively quick and painless. Women are asked to undress and cover themselves with a paper gown. They will lie down on their backs on top of an exam table with the knees bent and feet resting in stirrups. The doctor will gently insert a speculum into the vagina to hold the walls of the vagina apart so that the doctor can easily see and access the cervix. The doctor will use a soft brush or a small, flat spatula to collect samples of the cervical cells. None of the steps in the procedure hurt, but they may be slightly uncomfortable. However, the process is quick, and women are sitting upright in a matter of just a few minutes.
After the Pap smear is done, the sample of cells will be transferred to a lab where they will be examined for any precancerous characteristics. The office will typically call with results within a week’s time, and until then, women are able to go about their normal routines. If you have not had a regularly scheduled Pap smear, now is the time. Early detection is the first step in preventing and treating any form of cancer.
Posted on behalf of Sean Lambert M.D., North Pointe OB/GYN Associates