Pap Smear / Pelvic Exam
Cervical Cancer Screening
About 274,000 women die from cervical cancer each year, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in women (the first being breast cancer). 80% of these deaths occur in the developing world, where the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear is not available.
With the Pap smear, cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect and prevent. It is performed during a pelvic exam and can detect precancerous changes in the cervix. If detected early, these precancerous changes can be removed before becoming cancerous.
When Should I Get a Pap Smear?
Recommendations vary, but in general:
Cervical cancer screenings should begin at 21, regardless of the patient’s sexual history
Women between the ages of 21 and 29 years old should get a Pap smear every three years
Women over the age of 30 who have had three consecutive normal Pap tests can continue to be screened at an interval of every three years
If an HPV test is performed at the same time as a Pap smear, your recommended interval is every five years for women over 30
Women who have HIV or other immuno-compromised conditions should get a Pap smear every year
Cervical cancer screenings can be discontinued at age 65 if the patient has had no abnormal test results in the last 10 years
How Are Pap Smears Done?
Pap smears are performed during a pelvic exam where the patient is lying on her back on the examination table, with her knees bent and the heels of the feet in the stirrups. A speculum is used to keep the vaginal walls open and a small soft brush takes a few cells from the cervix. The procedure can be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is quick. Discomfort may include slight cramping and light bleeding for some patients. The sample obtained is sent to a lab for testing to identify whether abnormal cells are present.
If the results come back normal or “negative,” another test generally will not be needed for three years. If the results are “abnormal,” this does not necessarily mean a cancer diagnosis, just that abnormal cells have been found. Your doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you or recommend further testing if needed.
he cells are sent to a laboratory for screening.
If you are due for a routine pap smear, visit Willis Urgent Care open Monday - Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
A pelvic exam is a doctor’s visual and physical examination of a woman’s reproductive organs. During the exam, the doctor inspects the vagina, cervix, Fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries, and uterus. Health care providers, like your doctor or a nurse practitioner, routinely perform pelvic exams at their offices or clinics.
When Should You Have a Pelvic Exam?
There are no specific guidelines for how often you should have a pelvic exam. But it is often recommended to have one once a year. Depending on your medical history, your doctor may suggest that you have them more frequently. Women should have their first pelvic exam at age 21 unless other health issues require it earlier. Often the first pelvic exam is when a young woman becomes sexually active.
Women over the age of 21 should receive regular pelvic exams, similar to general checkups. However, special reasons for having a pelvic exam include:
Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
A family history of cancer
Concern about ovarian cancer, cysts, sexually transmitted diseases, and other gynecological problems
Preparing for a Pelvic Exam
If you’ve never had a pelvic exam before, let your health care provider know when making your appointment. Schedule your pelvic exam for a day when you will not be on your period. However, if you have a menstrual issue you are concerned about, your doctor may suggest an examination during your period.
Avoid vaginal intercourse, inserting anything into your vagina, and douching, at least 24 hours before your pelvic exam.
If you are due for a routine pelvic exam, visit Willis Urgent Care open Monday - Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
For more information on Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear see the following websites:
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of Willis Urgent Care. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.