A Pap smear test is the leading diagnostic tool for cervical cancer and an integral part of women’s health services. This powerful yet simple test is one of many services available through the care of William McIntosh, MD, and Lisa McIntosh, MD, at Women’s Health Center of Clarksville in Clarksville, Tennessee. If you’re overdue for a Pap smear, or would like more information, set up a visit today by phone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is a cervical cancer screening test developed in the 1940s. The process involves gathering a small number of cervical cells for microscopic evaluation. Lab technicians examine the cells for signs of cancer or precancerous changes.
Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of death for women. Since Pap smear testing became a routine part of women’s health care, cases have declined at remarkable levels. Today, cervical cancer is highly treatable when caught in the early stages.
Who should have a Pap smear?
Women should begin receiving Pap smears at the age of 21 or once they become sexually active. If your results are normal, you may only need a Pap smear once every three years.
In other cases, there may be a need for more frequent screening. If past tests have resulted in abnormal results or you received treatment for other forms of gynecologic cancer, you might need a Pap smear annually.
The primary cause of cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus, or HPV. Having an HPV test at the same time as your Pap smear can give your Women’s Health Center of Clarksville doctor more information about your risk level.
What happens during a Pap smear?
A Pap smear takes place during your routine pelvic exam at Women’s Health Center of Clarksville. If you are expecting your period as your appointment date approaches, consider rescheduling. Menstrual blood can make it hard to evaluate your cervical cells.
Once you’re comfortable on the exam table or chair, your doctor uses a speculum to gently separate your vaginal walls to gain access to your cervix. You may feel a degree of pressure, but there should be no significant discomfort.
Next, a small medical spatula or brush is used to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix. You might feel a brief cramping sensation at this point. The entire process takes just a couple of minutes.
The cells are then sent to the lab. Your results should be available within a few days to a week, and you’ll be notified as soon as possible. It’s normal to experience some minor spotting for a day or two after your visit.
If your Pap smear results show an abnormal reading, there’s no need to panic. Many abnormal results turn out to be nothing of concern. If there are abnormal cells present, your doctor can perform a colposcopy to gain a closer look at those cells. If needed, a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP, can remove abnormal cells.
For more information about Pap smear testing or to schedule your exam, call the Women’s Health Center of Clarksville today.