What is a Pap Smear test?
A Pap Smear test is a screening test done during a pelvic exam to check for abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. Abnormal cells can develop into cancer if not detected and treated. There are no signs or symptoms related to early cervical cancer so a pelvic exam of the female sex organs and a Pap Smear test are needed. Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if abnormal cells are detected and treated early. Pap Smear tests have reduced deaths from cancer of the cervix in the US by 70% over the past 50 years.
Other terms for Pap Smear test are Papanicolaou smear, Pap smear, and cervical smear.
What does it test for?
The Pap Smear test checks for abnormal changes in the cervical cells such as dysplasia. The abnormal cells can develop into cancer if the dysplasia is not discovered and treated.
The Pap Smear test may also detect viral infections of the cervix, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes. It may detect vaginal infections such as yeast infections or trichomonas. Sometimes the Pap Smear test can give information about your hormones, especially progesterone and estrogen.
How often should I have a Pap Smear test?
You should have your first Pap Smear test when you first become sexually active. You should then have a Pap Smear test every year after that. Some things that would increase your risk of developing cervical cancer are:
How do I prepare for a Pap Smear test?
Do not schedule your Pap Smear test during your menstrual period. Two weeks after the first day of your last period is the best time to have the test. Do not douche or use vaginal creams during the 3 days before the test. Do not have intercourse within 24 hours before the Pap Smear test because it can cause inaccurate test results.
What happens during the procedure?
A Pap Smear test takes only a few seconds and is performed as part of a routine pelvic exam. You lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet apart. Dr. Hardy or the Nurse Practitioner inserts a speculum into the vagina. The speculum is a tool that holds open the walls of the vagina so your provider can see the cervix. Your provider uses a special swab, brush, or wooden stick to wipe off some cells from the cervix. The cells are sent to a lab for testing.
If the cells look normal, no treatment is necessary.
The Pap test may show that you have an infection. Your health care provider may treat you for the infection and suggest that you have another Pap test in several months.
If the cells look abnormal, you may need more tests. A Pap test is not 100% accurate.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
Pap Smear tests can detect precancerous and cancerous conditions. If these conditions are discovered, there is a good chance that simple treatment will prevent the development or spread of cancer. Pap Smear tests are also useful for detecting some types of cervical or vaginal infections and hormonal problems.
What are the risks or disadvantages?
The Pap smear is a screening test. If abnormal cells are found, Dr. Hardy will do more tests to make a diagnosis. Also, sometimes the results may be inaccurate (false positive or false negative) and you may need more tests to check the results.
If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact either our Virginia Beach or Chesapeake office today.
3720 Holland Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452
Ph. (757) 463-1234
Fx. (757) 463-0453
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680-C Kingsborough Square
Chesapeake, Virginia 23320
Ph. (757) 548-0044
Fx. (757) 547-0179
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