Pap smears are a critical part of preventive women’s health care. The test was introduced in the 1950s, and in the four decades after that, the incidence of cervical cancer deaths decreased by 60%. The team of expert gynecologists at Contemporary Women’s Care provides Pap smears for women of all ages from in and around Winter Park and Lake Nona, Florida. If you’re due for a Pap smear or well-woman exam, call one of the offices or make an appointment online today.
A Pap smear is a test that checks for abnormal cells on your cervix. Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus, located at the top of your vaginal canal. During the test, your gynecologist uses a thin wand with a small brush on its tip to take a small sample of cells, which are then examined for irregularities like cancerous or precancerous cells. You may feel a little pressure during the quick test, but it isn’t painful.
Cervical cancer and other infections don’t often cause any noticeable symptoms in their early, and more easily treated stages. A Pap smear helps identify these health issues so your doctor can provide treatment before your well-being is affected. For example, many cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus, and if your gynecologist catches the infection or abnormal cells early, she can provide treatment and reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.
In general, you should have a Pap smear at least every three years from around the age of 21 — or when you become sexually active. However, your gynecologist at Contemporary Women’s Care provides a customized schedule depending on your risk.
For example, if you have a personal or family history of cervical cancer, you may need to have Pap smears annually. Alternatively, if you have a low risk of cervical cancer and have negative Pap and HPV tests, you may only need the test every five years after the age of 30. Most women stop having Pap smears around the age of 65.
If you’re pregnant and due for a Pap smear, you can have the test until your 24th week of pregnancy. You’ll need to wait for at least 12 weeks after giving birth to have the test.
You don’t need to do much to prepare for a Pap smear. You should avoid having sex or putting anything into your vagina, such as tampons, lubricants, or medication for at 48 hours before your test, as this could interfere with the accuracy of your screening. You should also not douche or use any special feminine hygiene products.
If you’re due for a Pap smear or well-woman checkup, call Contemporary Women’s Care or make an appointment online today.