​Pap Tests 101: Understanding the Importance and What to Expect During Your Cervical Cancer Screening

​Pap Tests 101: Understanding the Importance and What to Expect During Your Cervical Cancer Screening

  Thursday, February 22, 2018   Comments (0)

As a female, you have specific health risks to monitor as you grow into adulthood and all throughout your life. Proper well woman exams with your Houston gynecologist are highly important to monitor for certain problems that are common among women in general. Specifically, the Pap test, which is used to check for signs of cervical cancer, is crucial to monitoring your gynecological health.

Why Is the Pap Test So Important?

Cervical cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among women, with nearly 13,000 women diagnosed with the disease every year. It is this reason that your gynecologist is so adamant that you do have a Pap test when it is recommended. This single test is one of the best and easiest ways to monitor for cervical cancer in its earliest stages, so it can be properly treated.

When Should You Have a Pap Test?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, there is a certain schedule to be followed for Pap tests.

  • For women between the ages of 21 and 29, a PAP test and screening for cervical cancer is recommended every three years.
  • Between the ages of 30 and 65, you will only need an exam once every five years unless you've had abnormal cell detections in the past with PAP screening results.
  • Once you reach the age of 65, you will likely not have to have ongoing Pap tests unless you have had a cancer diagnosis in the past.

Even though there is a recommended schedule for Pap exams, you should always follow the recommendation of Pap screenings your doctor provides. Your overall health, prior test results, and other factors can put you at higher risk of cervical cancer, so you may have to have a screening more often.

What Happens During a Pap Test?

The Pap test is a simple gynecological procedure that is done during a well woman exam by the gynecologist. You will be asked to recline on the exam table just like you do for any other pelvic exam. A small medical device known as a speculum is inserted into the vaginal opening to hold it open, and the doctor will use a sterile swab to collect cell samples from the cervical opening.

The cells harvested during your Pap test for cervical cancer screening will be contained and sent for analysis by a professional medical lab. In most cases, it will take a few days or a few weeks for the lab results to come back, and you will then be notified of your results.

The Pap test is not necessarily painful, but some women do find the experience slightly uncomfortable. In rare cases, you may experience slight spotting after the Pap test simply because the cervix is manipulated for the exam.

Even though having a Pap exam can be one of those annoying little things you have to do as a female, it is well worth the effort to monitor for signs of cervical cancer. If you would like to schedule a well woman exam, contact us at Plaza OB/GYN for more information.

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