Eating a healthy diet and exercising are not enough if you want to protect yourself from dangerous disorders and diseases. Because the female reproductive system is so complicated and miraculous, testing is an important part of early diagnosis, which is imperative for fast and effective treatment. A pap smear is one of the most common tests recommended for women, but you may not have a full understanding of this simple test. Here are a few things you need to know about pap smears.
Recommendations May Surprise You
Everyone is different, so your gynecologist may recommend pap smears at different intervals than another woman. However, most doctors recommend pap smears every 3 years for women who are between the ages of 21 and 29.
Women who are 30 years of age and older may not require a pap smear as frequently, so gynecology specialists will recommend this test in addition to HPV screening every 5 years.
Again, each patient is different. Therefore, if you are displaying signs of cervical cancer, which may include bleeding and pain during and after sexual intercourse or irregular periods, pap smears may be done more frequently. Also, if one or more of your pap smears have been irregular, follow-up pap smears may be recommended.
Not Same as Pelvic Exams
Another fact that may surprise you is a pap smear is often confused with a standard pelvic exam, but they are different.
A pelvic exam is actually recommended every year for women. This examination focuses on the health of the vagina, helping your gynecologist determine if further testing is required. The pelvic exam will involve inserting a speculum to open the vagina up, allowing your gynecologist to see and feel the inside of the vagina and the cervix. This exam will also include the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
If you are due for a pap smear, it can be completed during the pelvic exam. Your gynecologist will use a cotton swab to take samples from the cervix, which are then sent to a lab to be evaluated for signs of cancerous cells.
Great Time for Discussions
Many women feel extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable during a pelvic exam or pap smear, but you should use this time to discuss your health and wellness with your gynecologist.
Make sure to ask questions regarding your physical, emotional, and sexual health during the exam. If you have any concerns, your gynecologist is there to help.
A pap smear may not be the most pleasant part of being a woman, but it can be very important for early diagnosis. This guide will help you understand a few interesting facts about pap smears and gynecological exams.