A Pap smear is a routine screening for cervical cancer. Also called a Pap test, it gets its name from George Papanicolaou, the physician who first discovered the test for detecting early-stage cervical cancer.
Pap smears are the best way to identify abnormal cervical cells that could indicate cancer. Most women should get their first Pap smear around age 21 and continue getting them throughout life.
Sanford White, MD, and our team at Abortion Care in Somerset, New Jersey, specialize in Pap testing for women of all ages. Pap smears are an important element of your health care as a woman, but the thought of getting your first Pap smear can be intimidating.
That’s why we want to remove the mystery. Find out what to expect from your first Pap smear here.
What happens during your Pap smear
Dr. White generally recommends that women between the ages of 21 and 65 get Pap smears every three years. Starting at age 30, you may be able to choose between getting Pap smears every three years or getting a Pap smear combined with an HPV test every five years.
Pap smears are part of your routine well-woman exams. Your appointment includes a pelvic exam, where you lie down on an exam table with your feet resting in stirrups, and your Pap smear is part of the exam.
The doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina to reach your cervix. Your cervix is the lower portion of your uterus that connects it to your vagina. Dr. White uses sterile instruments to gently collect a small sample of cells from cervical tissue.
Your Pap smear takes just a few minutes from start to finish. It shouldn’t be painful, but it’s not uncommon to experience mild discomfort or pressure when the speculum is inserted. Any discomfort should dissipate shortly after the test is over.
After your exam is complete, you’re free to get dressed, leave the office, and return to your normal daily activities. Our team sends the cell sample to a lab, and we call you with the results.
Pap smears screen for cervical cancer
The purpose of Pap smears is to screen for cervical cancer. The sample Dr. White collects during your Pap smear is analyzed in a lab and assessed to determine if abnormal cells are present.
If your Pap test results are normal, it means no abnormal or cancerous cells were detected. But if your Pap test results are abnormal, it doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer.
Abnormal Pap smear results may require additional testing. In some cases, you may need another Pap smear in a few months. Dr. White works with you to determine your risk of cancer and develop a treatment plan that fits your needs.
Getting regular Pap smears helps you maintain your health throughout life. Cervical cancer treatment is most effective when the condition is identified in early stages, and Pap testing is the most effective way to catch it early.
Is it time to schedule your first Pap smear? Trust your gynecological care to Dr. White and our team. Call us at 732-408-6182 or send us a message online.