Pap smear, does it hurt?
Pap smears are a routine aspect of gynecological care. But if you’ve never had one before, it’s normal to be a bit nervous.
Pap smear is basically a process in which cells are gently removed off the surface of the cervix and the surrounding area with a little brush so that they can be examined under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell alterations that may develop to cervical cancer. It may also aid in the detection of other conditions such as infections or inflammation.
Then, why does it sound scary and makes us get nervous about it? It is simply because of the idea of inserting something down there that makes us want to stay away from it.
So, does it really hurt?
Generally, a pap smear may cause discomfort but shouldn’t hurt. There is a possibility of slight bleeding afterwards, but you shouldn’t have any discomfort or cramps.
What happens during the process is, a speculum will be inserted into the vagina to widen it. A brush will be inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix. Then, the cells will be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
Although it may sound frightening, the opening is only about 2 centimeters wide during a Pap.
Who should take the pap test?
Doctors generally recommend repeating Pap testing every three years for women aged 21 to 65.
Women aged 30 and older can consider Pap testing every five years if the procedure is combined with testing for HPV.
If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more-frequent Pap smears, regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
- A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
- HIV infection
- Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
- A history of smoking
Preparing for the test
Not knowing what to avoid when it comes to pap smear is one of the biggest mistakes women make. Women should restrain from using vaginal creams, jellies, and medications two days before a pap smear appointment. Two days before the appointment, women should also abstain from vaginal sex.
A pap smear’s primary objective is to check for cells that could develop into cervical cancer. Some of these aberrant or ambiguous cells can be washed away by vaginal cream use or having sex before the pap smear, which will affect the results.
Ideally, you should try to get your pap testing done 10 to 14 days after your period. Menstruation may or may not prevent the detection of abnormal cells, depending on how much bleeding occurs. Some doctors prefer to completely avoid taking pap smears during your period, while others will give advice depending on how intense the bleeding is.
If at all your pap smear is scheduled close to your period, do not use tampons at least 2-3 days prior to the test as tampons can wash away abnormal cells.
And on the day of your test, try to relax as much as possible to ensure the process goes smoothly. Also make sure to empty your bladder just before the procedure, because ‘holding it’ may tighten up the muscles.
So, we hope the above details will make you more prepared for it. Since pap smear is an important test for early detection of cervical cancer, it is advised for all ladies above 21 of age to get it done.
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