The Pap smear, a test for cellular abnormalities of the cervix, was developed by Greek physician Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou and has been a lifesaver. Over the last four decades, cervical cancer mortality has dropped by more than 50%, thanks to the Pap test, and it prevents cancer over 95% of the time by removing precancerous cells.
More good news is that cervical cancer is highly treatable if detected early — which the screening allows us to do.
Dr. Kevin Hooker and our caring team at Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care provide a wide range of obstetric and gynecologic care, and routine Pap screens are an example. Coupled with the HPV test, which can detect the types of cancer-causing HPV viruses that some women’s bodies don’t clear, we are very well-armed to fight cervical cancer.
If you haven’t had a Pap test before
A Pap smear is a test where Dr. Hooker takes a cell sample from your cervix, the lower part of your uterus. It’s understandable to be a bit nervous if you’ve never had one, but it’s a quick and simple test, and we do everything possible to keep you comfortable. You can also take steps to ensure your screening goes smoothly, but first, let’s talk about what happens during the test.
When you visit us for your Pap smear, you recline on the examining table and place your feet in the stirrups on either side.
Dr. Hooker gently and carefully inserts a speculum into your vagina, a slender tool that opens your vagina so he can visually examine your cervix and take a cell sample using a long cotton swab.
We send the sample to a lab and wait for the results, which usually takes a few days or up to three weeks. If the results are unclear or indicate abnormal cells, it doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer, but it does mean that Dr. Hooker may need to run more tests.
He discusses how often you should get a Pap smear, taking your age and various risk factors into account. He typically recommends testing every 3-5 years if you’re between the ages of 21 and 65, but certain factors may require more frequent testing.
These include living with HIV, being a smoker or having smoked, any history of having precancerous cells or cervical cancer, and diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure (a synthetic hormone given to pregnant women from the late 1930s through 1971).
What you can do to help your Pap smear go smoothly
Whether it’s your first or 15th Pap smear, these tips will help you have an easier, more comfortable experience.
- Ensure you understand the Pap test and why you’re getting it.
You'll likely feel more comfortable about your Pap smear and during the procedure by talking to Dr. Hooker, asking questions, and voicing your concerns.
- Things to avoid
Don’t schedule your test during your period; it could alter the results. Also, refrain from having sex or using suppositories, tampons, or douches for 48 hours before your test. The same goes for using sprays or powders near your vagina.
- Go to the bathroom
Emptying your bladder can help make your Pap smear more comfortable.
- Know you won’t fall off the examining table
People joke about their gynecologists asking them to scoot down to the table's edge right before the exam. It may feel like you have no room to do that, but you do, and this is when you’ll be glad you employed tip #3.
- Think about good things
It might sound simplistic, but it can help to do a mini-meditation while getting your Pap smear, like closing your eyes and thinking about a favorite place. Although Pap smears aren’t painful — most women describe mild pressure — you may feel exposed and vulnerable, so happy thoughts can ease your tension. Fortunately, it only takes seconds to administer your Pap smear.
We’re here to make you comfortable during your Pap smear or any procedure you need, and compassion is our top priority when we treat you.
Contact our office at 928-683-1667 to schedule your Pap smear, or book one online. For your convenience, we offer early morning appointments, Monday through Friday.