The Pap smear, also known as a pap test or cervical smear, is a way to screen for cancer in women. You can do the test to detect pre-cancerous changes of the cervix, as well as cancerous cells, early on. It requires no anesthesia, and those uncomfortable with the swab may ask for an analgesic cream or spray to numb the area before the exam. It is vital for women over 30 years of age and every two years for those under 30.
This test can be done at the start of pregnancy and often helps to confirm a normal pregnancy. Before having a Pap smear, women should tell the South Charleston pap smear specialist if they are taking blood thinners such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin/Jantoven), have any active bleeding disorder, have been treated for vaginal bleeding, have been treated for cervical cancer, or suspect they may be pregnant. It is only safe to do the exam during pregnancy if no complications exist and the doctor has ruled out any potential problems that could arise from doing it.
It would help if you did the Pap smear every two years from 21 until 65. If you are over 30, have had normal pap smears and no abnormal pap tests in a decade, your doctor may recommend a Pap smear every three to five years instead. After menopause at age 65 or 70, depending on personal preference, women can stop getting Pap smears unless there is a history of pre-cancerous changes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women between 21 and 29 get a Pap smear every three years, regardless of sexual history or other risk factors. Women ages 30 to 65 recommend a Pap smear every two years with either an HPV test or regular cytology. Although most doctors do not routinely do cervical cancer screening before age 21, some ob-gyns may choose to screen women as young as 18 if they are at high risk for cervical cancer.
This is because younger women tend to have more abnormal Pap smears than older women.
After menopause, women should only get yearly mammograms instead of regular Pap smears.
On the day of your appointment, wear comfortable clothing and avoid using any deodorant or scented products on the lower half of your body. At some times, women are given a pelvic exam to see if their cervix is positioned in an optimal way for taking samples of cervical cells. If this is needed, your doctor will tell you to refrain from inserting anything into your vagina 24 hours before the exam, including sexual intercourse, vaginal creams, or other products.
To summarize, a pap smear is a way to screen for cancer in women. You need to have the test done from age 21 to 65, although you need to have it during your younger years regularly. On the day of the test, you need to wear comfortable clothing and follow the instructions given by your doctor.