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Prepping for Your First Pap Smear: Here’s What to Expect

The Pap smear is a critical gynecologic screening that tests for cervical cancer. The test, named after Dr. Giorgios Papanicolaou, the Greek physician who developed it, has become an essential monitor of women’s health.

The Pap smear is just one of many services that Dr. Kevin Hooker offers at Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care. He combines clinical expertise with sensitivity when it comes to this and other testing, and he typically performs a pelvic exam along with your Pap smear. 

Whether you’re seeking routine gynecologic care, treatment for a specific condition like endometriosis, help with fertility issues, or obstetrical care if you’re expecting a baby, Dr. Hooker provides attentive, unmatched care. 

The importance of getting a Pap test

As we noted, this test is critical because it detects cervical cancer, and this type of cancer is one of the most treatable when detected early. Since women began regular screenings for cervical cancer with a Pap test, cervical cancer rates have decreased dramatically.  Cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths have gone down by more than 50% over the last four decades, thanks to the Pap test. 

Another contributor to lower rates of cervical cancer has been the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and although there are over 200 strains of HPV, only two of 12 high-risk strains are responsible for causing most cervical cancers. 

If you’re at average risk for cervical cancer, the recommendation is that women start being tested at age 21 and get retested every three to five years until age 65. 

After age 65, your Dr. Hooker talks to you about the frequency of testing based on multiple factors. Women 30 and older may be able to get tested every five years if they accompany their Pap test with an HPV test. Dr. Hooker lets you know if and when you only need an HPV test without a Pap smear. 

Certain risk factors may prompt Dr. Hooker to recommend more frequent testing, including if you’ve had a history of cervical cancer or precancerous findings on a previous test if you’ve smoked, and if you’ve ever taken the synthetic form of estrogen called diethylstilbestrol (DES). If you live with HIV, you may also need testing more often.

It’s my first Pap smear — what will it be like?

Fortunately, a Pap test is comfortable, brief, and included in your annual women’s wellness exam. Once you have changed from your clothing into a gown in our office, you recline on the exam table and place your feet in the stirrups. 

Dr. Hooker then carefully uses a speculum to open your vagina so he can see your cervix. This allows him to take a long swab and gently scrape cells from your cervix that we send to a laboratory for testing. 

If they discover any abnormal cells, Dr. Hooker may advise taking a tissue sample from your cervix. The good news is that if you have this procedure done, your chance of beating cervical cancer is excellent — we can eliminate it in over 95% of instances. 

It’s a good idea to avoid sexual intercourse, douching, or spermicidal creams, jellies, or foams for two days before your Pap smear. We also recommend that you refrain from using vaginal medicines during that time as well. The reason is that these products and practices can wash away or otherwise obscure abnormal cells. 

The other thing to remember when you schedule your Pap smear is to pick a time for it when you’re not menstruating. 

Getting your Pap test provides reassurance, so you don’t have to worry about cervical cancer, and if Dr. Hooker does find anything unusual, he can address it to ensure your health.

Call our Mesquite Avenue office to schedule your Pap smear at 928-683-1667 or request one online at our website.

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