The Papanicolaou test, commonly known as the pap smear, is a minimally invasive screening of the cervix used to detect precancerous and cancerous tissues in the cervix.
At iCare Health Services in Laurel, Maryland, we conduct pap smears. Patients are asked to lie down as a speculum is inserted through the opening of their vagina, all the way to the opening of the cervix.
The speculum holds the vagina open as our expert uses a brush to collect cells from the cervix and send them to the lab where they’re analyzed for abnormalities. A pap smear can be slightly uncomfortable, but it’s not painful and doesn’t take long to complete. You can have one done during your lunch break if you wish.
A pap smear is used for the early detection of precancerous and cancerous cells, and can also indicate the presence of certain types of infections. If you’ve heard about the test and want to ensure you’re well, read on. Below, we asked our experts to explain who should get tested and how often.
Any sexually active woman past the age of 21 can benefit from the test. You may also benefit from the human papillomavirus (HPV) test. The HPV virus can cause precancerous or cancerous cells to develop in the cervix. Much of the time, the virus clears up on its own in about two years.
Most women aged 65 and older no longer need the pap smear. However, there are a few exceptions, including the following:
Abnormal pap smear results don’t always indicate precancerous or cancerous cells, but if the cells look abnormal, experts may want to check if any changes occur with time.
The current recommendation for sexually active women is to get tested every three years. However, you may need more frequent testing if you have a weakened immune system or are a long-time smoker, or if one of your previous pap smear tests was abnormal.
To prepare for your pap smear, avoid intercourse or any vaginal medicines for a couple of days before the test. It’s also best not to schedule it while you’re menstruating.
About a century ago, Greek physician Georgios Papanicolaou invented the pap smear, reducing the death rates of cervical cancer by 70%. Get peace of mind by calling or sending a message to us online to schedule an appointment and take advantage of this minimally invasive, life-saving test.