What Happens During A Pap Smear
A Pap smear is often taken during a pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, you will lie on an exam table while your health care provider examines your vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, and pelvis to check for any abnormalities. For the Pap smear, your provider will use a plastic or metal instrument called a speculum to open the vagina, so the cervix can be seen. Your provider will then use a soft brush or plastic spatula to collect cells from the cervix.
What Causes An Abnormal Pap Smear
- Human papillomavirus causes cell changes that are true abnormal Pap smears.
- Mild infection, irritation from yeast or tampons, or trauma from sexual intercourse also cause cell changes, but these changes often go away on their own or can be easily treated.
- The person reading the Pap smear may see some normal cells as abnormal.
Can I Get A Pap Test If Im Pregnant
Are you pregnant or trying to conceive and wondering if your pap smear can detect early pregnancy?
You’re in the right place.
A pap smear cannot detect early pregnancy. It is a screening test used to prevent the most common gynecologic cancer worldwide.
After reading this post, you’ll learn:
- The pros and cons of getting a pap smear in pregnancy,
- If and how a pap smear can affect your pregnancy, and
- What to do if you have an abnormal pap smear result during pregnancy.
Let’s get started!
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
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What Do My Pap Smear Results Mean
The Pap showed infection, irritation, or normal cell repair. Have another Pap smear.
There are minor changes in the cells. Since we don’t know what these changes mean, another Pap smear should be done in 3 to 6 months. If your Pap smears show atypia repeatedly, then colposcopy is usually done.
- LOW GRADE CHANGES
There maybe a wart virus infection . In one in six women, the Pap smear will get worse. You should have another Pap smear in 3 months to check. If found twice, then colposcopy is done. Some health care providers do colposcopy the first time.
- HIGH GRADE CHANGES
The cells of the cervix may progress toward cancer, but they are not cancer yet. Less than half of the women with tests like this will progress to cancer. Colposcopy should be done within the next few weeks. Waiting up to 1-3 months is okay because it is not an emergency.
What Is A Colposcopy
During a colposcopy, your doctor or nurse takes a closer look at abnormal areas on your cervix and uses an instrument with a light and magnifier to make the abnormal areas easier to see. Your doctor or nurse might use a small amount of vinegar on your cervix to make any abnormal areas stand out.
If there is an abnormal area on the cervix, your doctor or nurse will perform a biopsy to check for cancer cells. Results of these tests will help your doctor or nurse decide on the best treatment to recommend.
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How To Prevent Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is caused by infection with human papillomavirus , a very common sexually transmitted infection. In the U.S., almost 80 percent of adults carry some form of this virus, though the vast majority do not show symptoms.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV infections that are most commonly involved with cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. This vaccine is given in a two or three dose schedule depending on how old you are when you start it. It is important to remember that this vaccine prevents new infections but does not treat existing infections.
In addition to getting the vaccine, using condoms during sex, limiting your number of sexual partners, and not smoking will help lower your risk of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is easiest to treat when it is identified early, even during precancerous stages. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is by getting regular Pap tests beginning at age 21. HPV-specific tests can also identify the cancer-causing virus screened for during a Pap smear.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.
You Cancel Because Of Your Period
All the ob-gyns we spoke to said the same thing: Dont cancel your appointment because of your period. Newer Pap smear techniques allow doctors to get accurate results even when its that time of the month, explains Dr. Jacoby, MD. “Remember, Im an obstetrician I help women give birth. Ive seen a fair share of blood,” she says. “I prefer my patients keep their appointments.” If youre experiencing heavy bleeding and are concerned about it, it actually makes sense for your doctor to see you then to see if there are clues she can find as to why. However, in extremely rare situations, if your flow is exceptionally heavy, Dr. Lebowitz suggests you reschedule, since the lab may make your doctor repeat the Pap.
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What Happens If You Have An Abnormal Pap Test
If your pap test comes back with abnormal cells, or your HPV test comes back positive for high-risk strains, you will likely have a colposcopy done in the 2nd trimester.
A colposcopy is a procedure that is done by your OBGYN in the office in which a colposcope is used to examine the cervix more closely for suspicious lesions.
If there is a highly suspicious lesion, a cervical biopsy of that area may be considered.
Any other findings that are less concerning, or ones that might require further treatment like a cone biopsy are often handled in the postpartum period in the operating room.
What Did The Biopsy Show
- If biopsy shows the cells are normal, another Pap smear and sometimes another colposcopy are done just to make sure.
- If biopsy shows mild changes , most health care providers do not treat. Treatment will not cure wart virus.
- If biopsy shows high grade changes , treatment should be done.
- If biopsy shows cancer, a cone or other surgery should be done.
- If colposcopydoes not give a diagnosis and the Pap smear shows high grade changes, a conization may be done.
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Are Pap And Hpv Tests Painful
Some women find Pap and HPV tests uncomfortable, but the tests should not be painful. You will feel pressure as your doctor or nurse puts the speculum into your vagina.
If you have never had sexual intercourse or if you have had pain when something is put into your vagina, you can ask your doctor or nurse to use a smaller speculum.
You can also help lessen or prevent pain by urinating before the test to empty your bladder or by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, about an hour before your Pap or HPV test.
What Does A Pap Smear Detect
A Papanicolaou or “pap” smear test is a cervical cancer screening test to determine if you have any abnormal cells on your cervix.
This test is done in your OBGYN’s office at the time of the pelvic exam.
A speculum will be placed inside your vagina to help your doctor visualize the cervix.
A small spatula-like device will then be used to collect some cervical cells which will then be sent to a pathologist to examine under a microscope.
An abnormal result will require further testing.
The sample may be also be tested for HPV infection – which is the biggest risk factor for developing cervical cancer and/or genital warts.
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How Long It Generally Lasts
If bleeding after a Pap smear is from normal causes, such as a cervical scratch, the bleeding should stop within a few hours. Spotting may last up to two days, but the bleeding will become lighter.
Avoid sex and dont use a tampon in the two to three days following a Pap smear if youre experiencing bleeding. The additional pressure may cause bleeding to start again or become heavier.
Does A Pap Smear Detect Fertility Potential
Unfortunately, a pap test does not detect your fertility potential. In addition, abnormal pap test results do not make you less fertile.
There is no definitive way of measuring your fertility.
A common misconception is thinking that an anti-mullerian hormone or AMH predicts fertility.
AMH only tells you about your ovarian reserve, which is the number of eggs left in your body.
The AMH does not tell you how fertile you are but rather how your body might respond to fertility treatment.
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What Happens During A Pap Test
Similar to a standard pelvic exam in your gynecologists office, you will lay down on the exam table and place your feet in the stirrups. Your doctor will then use a speculum to widen the vaginal opening, allowing them to properly see the upper vagina and cervix to take an accurate sample of cells with a scraper or brush. This sample is sent to a lab to screen for health conditions. If abnormal cells are present, your doctor may order a second test or recommend a cervical exam and biopsy called a colposcopy.
Mild discomfort, bleeding, or cramping after a pap smear is to be expected because this area of our body is so sensitive! Our blood rushes to the cervix and other reproductive organs during a pap smear or pelvic exam, explaining why the irritation or bleeding may occur. On the other hand, some side effects from the screening are not normal, such as heavy bleeding or severe pain.
More Questions From Patients:
Can you get a pap test while you’re on your period?
You can get a Pap test during your period. Your nurse or doctor may suggest scheduling the test for a time when you aren’t expecting your period because it can interfere with the results if you’re having any unexpected discharge. You’ll still be able to have your test even if you are on your period though no matter how light or heavy your flow is.
Pap Smear Procedure: How And When You Should Do It
The Pap test has been used to detect cervical cancer for more than 75 years and is usually performed during an annual OB-GYN exam. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend every sexually active woman to have a pelvic examination to rule out different medical conditions including cancer. This is especially important for women over the age of 30, since they are at a higher risk.
The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus . This is a common virus that can be transmitted through intercourse and is considered a standard sexually transmitted infection. Most women that have been exposed to HPV do not have any symptoms, and it can go undetected for a long time before any symptoms become apparent.
During the exam with your gynecologist, the doctor will perform a pelvic exam and collect cells from your cervix. This sample is then sent off to a laboratory for testing. Typically, this only needs to be done once every few years unless you are experiencing unexplained symptoms or have an abnormal result from the laboratory testing. If this is the case, your doctor will have you come back in for a follow-up to confirm the findings and determine if additional treatment is necessary.
Why Annual Pap Smears Are History But Routine Ob
An ob-gyn explains current guidelines for cervical cancer screening and routine checkups.
In the recent past, women were advised to visit their ob-gyn every year for a Pap test, as well as a pelvic exam and breast exam. The Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is a screening test for cervical cancer.
Fast forward to today, and our advice has changed. Women should still visit their ob-gyn each year, and Ill outline why thats so important below. But we no longer advise women to have an annual Pap test. A big reason for the change: We now better understand the way cervical cancer develops over timewe know it takes many years to developso weve expanded the time between screenings.
We also now have two screening options to detect cervical cancer, the Pap test and the HPV test. With both tests, cells are taken from the cervix and tested. The Pap test looks for abnormal cells that may develop into cancerous cells over time. The HPV test looks for the strains of HPV that are most likely to cause cancer.
Heres a quick summary of ACOG guidelines for cervical cancer screening :
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Will I Need To Do Anything To Prepare For The Test
You should not have a Pap smear while you are having your period. A good time to have the test is about five days after the last day of your period. Additional recommendations are to avoid certain activities a few days before your Pap smear. Two to three days before your test you shouldn’t:
- Use tampons
- Have sex
Why Is A Pap Smear Done
A pap smear is done to look for changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you have cancer, finding it early on gives you the best chance of fighting it. If you donât, finding cell changes early can help prevent you from getting cancer.
Women ages 21-65 should have a Pap smear on a regular basis. How often you do depends on your overall health and whether or not youâve had an abnormal Pap smear in the past.
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Ok But What Happens If You Have Your Period
Its usually OK to get both a pelvic exam and Pap smear when you have your period, but it may affect the results of your Pap.
Doctors say theres usually no reason why you need to avoid getting a pelvic exam while on your period with one exception: if youre having a pelvic exam because youre dealing with weird discharge. If someone is on their period, its going to be difficult to do an appropriate evaluation of an abnormal discharge, Dr. Streicher says.
That doesnt mean you should just cancel your visit, since abnormal discharge can happen for a variety of reasons that benefit from prompt treatment, like sexually transmitted infections. But it does make sense to call beforehand and discuss the specifics with your doctor or a member of their team so they can tell you whether or not to come in based on the full scope of your symptoms.
As for a Pap, you can technically still get one during your period, but it can still be better to schedule the test for a time when you dont expect you’ll be menstruating. Depending on how heavy your flow is, your period may affect the results of your test.
Usually if it’s during the lighter part of the cycle it shouldn’t be a problem, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF. , sometimes women can bleed too much to get an adequate sample of cells for the Pap.