Abortion Clinic & Family Planning Obstetrics & Gynecology located in East Brunswick, NJ
A Pap smear is an important screening test that detects precancerous cells in your cervix. Over the past few decades, as the Pap smear became a routine part of women’s preventive health care, the death rate from cervical cancer plummeted by more than 70%. The team of board-certified gynecologists at GYN Choices offers regular Pap test screenings as well as proficient treatment following abnormal results. To find out how getting your Pap smear in East Brunswick, NJ can help protect you from cervical cancer, call us today!
Pap Smear Q & A
A Pap smear is a test that examines the cells in your cervix, or the lower part of your uterus, for abnormal changes. Pap smear tests are an indispensable tool in cervical cancer prevention because finding abnormal cells before they mutate into cancer cells can significantly increase your chances of avoiding or surviving cervical cancer.
When cervical cancer cells are detected early, the five-year survival rate is over 90%. When cervical cancer cells are detected before they’ve invaded any surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.
A Pap smear is usually performed during a routine pelvic exam, as you’re lying on the exam table with your feet resting in supports.
Your gynecologist gently opens your vagina with a sterilized speculum so that your cervix is visible. Then, using a special, slender brush, they take a few cells from the tissues in and around your cervix.
While some patients do experience brief, mild discomfort during a Pap smear, the procedure isn’t painful, and it’s over quickly.
After collection, the cervical cells are placed on a slide for close examination under a microscope. To ensure accurate results and minimal wait time, the team at GYN Choices of Central Jersey examines all Pap test cells in their on-site lab.
Having regular Pap Smears is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent cervical cancer. They’re recommended every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 65.
Starting at the age of 30, most women can choose between getting a Pap test every three years, or have a combined Pap/HPV test every five years.
If you’re at an increased risk for cervical cancer, you may be advised to have more frequent Pap tests. The two main reasons that women require additional screening include having a previous cervical cancer diagnosis or having abnormal Pap results that showed precancerous cells.
Once you reach the age of 65, you may be able to stop having Pap tests as long as you don’t have a history of abnormal results or any other factors that increase your chances of developing cervical cancer.
You may also be able to stop having Pap tests if you've had a complete hysterectomy to treat a noncancerous condition. If your hysterectomy was done to address a precancerous or cancerous condition, however, your doctor will probably advise you to continue having regular Pap screenings.
If you postpone your Pap Smear, you do not increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. The consequence of not receiving regular cervical cancer screenings as recommended is that your risk of cervical cancer going unnoticed increases. According to The American Cancer Society, incidents of cervical cancer have decreased more than 50 percent in the last 30 years. This is attributed to the development of the Pap Smear screening and its ability to detect abnormal cells early, before cancer develops.
Some patients describe their Pap as being mildly uncomfortable. Some describe it as completely comfortable. This is a difficult question to answer definitively because every patient has a unique tolerance for the sensations that occur during the test. To reduce the chances of discomfort from the speculum, it can be helpful to place your hands on the outside of your thighs while the doctor is performing the screening. This posture helps you relax your legs, which may also relax the pelvic muscles so the speculum does not press against contracted tissue. It can also be helpful to breathe out while the speculum is inserted and opened. Once the instrument is in place, it usually takes less than a minute for the doctor to obtain the small sample of cervical cells and remove the speculum. One final tip about comfort. Schedule your Pap a week to 10 days after the last day of your period. During this time, your pain tolerance may be at its best.
In order for the Pap test to be successful, the doctor must be able to visualize the cervix and obtain a clean sample of cells. To ensure the screening is effective and accurate, patients should avoid a few things for a few days before their appointment. These include sexual intercourse, tampon use, douching, use of a spermicide, or any medication or substance inserted into the vagina. If you are concerned about discomfort, you can take acetaminophen as directed on the label before your appointment.
It can take 1 to 3 weeks to receive the results of your Pap test. When the results are returned to us from the lab, we will contact you with the details of the examination. If your Pap is positive, we may ask you to return to the office for additional tests. It is not uncommon for a Pap result to be positive. This doesn't always indicate cancerous cells. The doctor may advise having a follow-up Pap sooner than would otherwise occur. Subsequent tests are often normal without any intervention.
The Pap test can detect changes in cells that may indicate cervical cancer or precancerous changes in cervical cells. Upon laboratory examination, the cell sample is measured for the number of atypical squamous cells present. The number of atypical cells correlates to the degree of abnormality and risk a patient has. For example, few atypical cells, referred to as low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, indicate a mild abnormality that is usually caused by HPV infection. This low-grade abnormality usually resolves on its own. The Pap does not detect any other forms of sexually transmitted infection.
Some women do experience mild discomfort or spotting after their Pap smear. The discomfort may feel like light period cramps. If cramping occurs, it should resolve within a few hours. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever may alleviate the discomfort until then. If spotting occurs, this usually stops in a few hours to a couple of days, lightening progressively over time.
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