What does a Pap Smear Test For?
A Pap smear test, short for Papanicolaou test, is a preventative care examination for women. This vitally important exam is meant to identify HPV (human papillomavirus) as well as early signs of cervical cancer. What gynecologists are testing for in a pap smear are abnormal or cancerous cells in the cervix.
Why Get a Pap Smear Test?
Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Both cervical cancer and HPV rarely show in systems, therefore, regular testing is one of the only methods of detection.
Regular pap smear testing can be lifesaving, as early identification of cervical cancer is almost always treatable. All adult women under 65 are recommended to get Pap smears once every few years depending on their age. That frequency increases for those with medical complications or impairments such as HIV or who have had cervical cancer in the past.
How to Get a Pap Smear
Because a Pap smear test falls under preventive care, it is covered by most insurances. When scheduling an appointment, there are a few requirements by doctors in order to ensure the most accurate result possible. The first is to not schedule a Pap smear during your period; wait at least 10 days after your period has ended. The second is that two days before the exam, refrain from using tampons, vaginal creams, and suppositories, douches or deodorant sprays, and having sex. Partaking in any of the aforementioned can affect the quality of the cervix samples and cause an erroneous result reading.
The procedure itself is virtually painless and quite simple. During a pelvic exam, the doctor inserts a speculum into the vagina to hold it open. Once there is clear access to the cervix (the entryway to the vagina/womb) a special smear brush is inserted to swab the surface and gather a sample of cervix cells and mucus. Spotting may occur after the exam but this is normal.
Pap Smear Test Results
It takes approximately one to three weeks for Pap smear test results to be determined. The results will either be “negative” meaning the cervix is healthy and negative for any potentially cancerous cells or “positive,” meaning that the cells within the sample were of various shapes and sizes when they should be uniform. If this is the case, it does not necessarily mean that one has cervical cancer.
A cervical infection might be a potential cause for the abnormality. This can be caused by a yeast infection or STD. Although a Pap smear may be an indirect source of STD detection, by no means is it meant to serve as a test for other sexually transmitted disease or other types of cancer.
If it has been more than three years since your last PAP smear test, visit a clinic that is part of the UrgentMED Network. The friendly and helpful staff can perform all the routine gynecological examinations a woman needs. While most insurances cover Pap smear tests at no cost to the patient, the UrgentMED Network offers affordable options for those without insurance. Don’t put off such an important test of health, visit one of their 13 Southern California locations today!