As a woman, a Pap smear is an integral part of maintaining your reproductive health. But if you’ve never had one before, you may be wondering just what it entails and why it’s so important.
At Woodstock Family Practice and Urgent Care, Dr. James Y. Lee and his team take your health very seriously. That’s why they’ve made this helpful guide so you know what to expect during your first Pap smear.
How Pap smears work
A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a simple procedure that we perform in our office on an outpatient basis. You can schedule an appointment specifically for a Pap smear or ask for it during your regular physical or gynecological check-up.
The test is fairly simple and consists of using a speculum to expand your vagina and then scraping your cervix with a specialized swab. The swab collects cells from your cervix, which will then be sent to a laboratory for testing.
While a Pap smear can be uncomfortable in the moment, it’s usually over within a few minutes and does not cause any pain.
Why you need a Pap smear
The most important thing a Pap smear tests for is your risk of cervical cancer. According to The American Cancer Society for 2019, more than 13,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed during the year, and of those, more than 4,000 are fatal.
Pap tests can also detect abnormal cells before they even become cancerous. Detecting these precancerous cells prevents cervical cancer more than 95% of the time. So, as you can see, Pap tests can be life-saving.
In addition to cervical cancer, a Pap smear also tests for HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause warts and increase your risk of cervical cancer.
Who needs a Pap smear?
It’s generally recommended that you should start getting a Pap smear at the age of 21. However, everyone is different, and you should be honest with us about your sexual activity, as you may need to start getting a Pap smear earlier.
Additionally, because cervical cancer can lie dormant and undetected for years, it’s important to continue to get Pap smears, even as you age. For women aged 21 to 65, it’s recommended that you get a Pap smear every three years.
Whether you haven’t had a Pap smear yet or you’re interested in getting one as a regular part of your reproductive health care, call us to set one up or book an appointment directly on our website today.