How is a Pap Smear collected?
A speculum is used to view your cervix and collect the Pap Smear. A speculum is a metal or plastic device that is inserted into your vagina and opened slightly to see your cervix. Either a small plastic broom, brush, or spatula (or a combination of a couple) is used to collect the cells. For some people, this can feel uncomfortable, and for others it may be painful. Talk to your provider if you have a history of painful Pap Smears, as there are adjustments can be made to make it less painful.
How often should I have a Pap smear collected?
As with any screening exam, when and how often you get your Pap Smear is individualized based on your personal history. The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that you have your first Pap Smear starting at age 21. The American Cancer Society recommends starting at age 25. Depending on your results, you will get another Pap anywhere between 1-3 years. The reason people can wait up to 3 years is that it take a long time for these cervical changes to go from being normal to cancerous. This also prevents short-term changes from being over-treated. Talk to your provider about how often you should have your Pap smear, and when you should get your first one.
What happens if I have an abnormal Pap Smear?
As we mentioned before, there is a range of just how abnormal your pap can be. If they are mild changes (especially if you are in your 20's), we may just recommend repeating your Pap in 1 year instead of 3 to see if the changes improve or get worse. If it is abnormal, we would recommend getting a colposcopy. A colposcopy is an in-office procedure where we are taking a closer look at your cervix. If on closer inspection the cells still look abnormal, a more in-depth sample (called a biopsy) will be collected and sent to an expert to look at. If they still look abnormal or a higher risk for cancer, a procedure to remove those cells may be recommended.
Are you up to date on your Pap? If not, schedule your annual well person check with one of our providers today!