A pap smear is a medical procedure in which cells are removed from the cervix and examined in a lab for abnormalities. A pap smear can be safely performed during pregnancy and it is routine that every woman receive a pap smear at the beginning of their pregnancy. It is best to avoid a pap smear if you are menstruating. For two days before your pap smear, you should avoid putting anything into the vagina. This includes tampons, spermicides, foams & creams, vaginal medications, douches and sexual intercourse.
Who Should Have A Pap Smear
All females that are sexually active should obtain yearly pap smears. All females, whether sexually active or not, should obtain a yearly pap smear by age 21. Women that are age 30 and over may have a pap smear once every three years as long as they have had three consecutively normal pap smears prior.
Where Can I Get A Pap Smear?
Doctors, midwives and physician's assistants are all educated and trained to perform a pap test. Some nurses are capable of performing these tests as well. Pap tests can be performed in a doctor's office, clinic or hospital setting. For women that do not have insurance or cannot afford to visit a doctor, the local health department may be able to offer assistance for free or reduced cost screening.
Results of the pap smear should be available within three weeks of your scheduled pap test. At the end of the procedure, ask your nurse or doctor when the results will be available and find out how you will be notified of the results. While the majority of results will be normal, abnormal results do occur. Abnormal results do not always mean cancer is present. While cancerous cells do cause abnormal results on a pap smear, other factors such as blood or sperm present in the vagina and cervix, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, untreated sexually transmitted diseases and inflammation can cause abnormal results. If you receive abnormal results on your pap test, always ask to speak with your healthcare provider. Your doctor may request a second pap smear right away or they may suggest waiting for several months before performing another procedure. Ask for a copy of the lab report and an explanation of the results to ensure that you understand the exact cause of your abnormal results. If you still do not completely understand the results, ask for more detailed information or get a second opinion from another medical professional.
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