For most women, Pap smears are part of being an adult. This slightly uncomfortable routine procedure is an important test designed to look for signs of cervical cancer. During the procedure, your gynecologist gently scrapes cells from your cervix and looks for abnormal cells that are cancerous or precancerous. Even if you’ve had Pap smears before, there are still some things you might not know about them. Here are 7 things to know about Pap smears.
- Pap smears and pelvic exams are two different things
Both Pap smears and pelvic exams are equally important. While a Pap smear tests for cervical cancer, a pelvic exam checks for abnormalities in your vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, rectum, and pelvis. Pelvic exams are typically performed at your well-woman visit with your gynecologist.
- Pap smears do not test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Pap smears exclusively check for cell changes to your cervix, and do not test for STIs, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection, be sure to ask your doctor to run separate tests.
- You still need a Pap smear, even if you are not sexually active
The majority of cervical cancers are caused by an infection stemming from the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get Pap smears if you are not sexually active. Not all cervical cancers are derived from HPV, which means it’s critically important to have routine Pap smears, whether or not you are sexually active.
- Consider rescheduling your Pap smear if you are on your period
Although technically you can still have a Pap smear while menstruating, we recommend rescheduling until your period is done. If your flow is heavy, it could affect the results of your screening. However, if your flow is light, it might be ok. Not sure what to do? Give us a call, and we’ll help you make a decision. If you’re just coming in for a pelvic exam, there is no need to reschedule because of your period.
- Women need Pap smears every three years
Starting at age 21, it is recommended that women get routine Pap smears every three years. If you are at an increased risk for cervical cancer, Pap smears are recommended even more frequently. Most women stop needing Pap smears by the age of 65. Talk with your doctor to figure out what is best for you!
- Smoking has been linked to abnormal Pap smears
- Talk with your doctor to find out when you are due for your next Pap smear
As guidelines continue to change with new research, it’s important to stay in touch with your doctor to find out when to schedule your next appointment.
Schedule your next Pap smear with us
At North Texas OB-GYN Associates, we desire to serve the women in our community. We want to help you pursue a life filled with passion and vibrance, and prioritizing your health and wellness is the first step. With five doctors here to serve you and 171 combined years of experience, we always strive to put you and your health first. Don’t wait to schedule your next Pap smear — call us today at 972-436-7557.