What To Expect During Your Cervical Cancer Screening
Part of the cervical cancer screening process includes detecting precancerous cells with a pap smear test. This test helps your medical provider catch these cells before they turn into cervical cancer. While important, we understand screenings can be nerve-wracking. You may be unsure how the procedure will go, or you could be concerned about its results. Regardless, pap smears are vital towards cervical health and catching cervical cancer in women of every age. Let CCMH put you at ease for your next (or first) pap smear!
When Should I Start Screening Against Cervical Cancer?
Regardless of sexual activity, women should begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21! If your results are normal and show healthy cells, you only need to schedule a pap smear once every three years until reaching the age of 29.
However, cervical cancer is unlikely to present in younger women. Once a woman reaches 30, it is suggested that she begins regular HPV (human papillomavirus) testing along with her Pap smear. If results show no sign of the HPV virus, women can begin scheduling their screenings every five years.
How Can You Prepare For The Appointment?
Your comfort is important during any test or procedure. When scheduling your appointment, keep in mind that your period won’t affect your test results or procedure! However, if you feel you will be uncomfortable, you can schedule around your cycle (or reschedule if necessary)!
On the day of your appointment, also remember to wear comfortable and easy-to-remove clothing. Your medical provider will ask you to wear a gown during the procedure. Clothing that you can easily take on or off will allow your appointment to run smoothly and quickly.
Finally, we suggest that you avoid vaginal intercourse, vaginal creams, suppositories, medicines and douches two to three days before your scheduled appointment. These may prevent your medical provider from receiving accurate testing results from any abnormal cells in your cervix.
What Can You Expect During Your Procedure?
Before your procedure, you’ll be asked to switch to a hospital gown. Your medical provider will then continue with the test and ensure comfort.
You can expect to have your feet placed onto stirrups attached to a medical table that widens your legs.
From there, your medical provider will insert a tool called a speculum (shaped like a duckbill) that helps he or she collect cervix cells with a soft brush. And then continue with an internal exam, checking your uterus and ovaries for abnormalities. This typically only lasts a few minutes.
No part of this test should cause pain, although you may feel slight discomfort and pressure on your abdomen. Stay relaxed and breathe through your Pap smear for your comfort!
Mental Care Tips For Your Next Pap Smear
We understand that a Pap smear can be extremely uncomfortable and cause distress. If you find that you experience anxiety beforehand, we suggest:
- Distractions or relaxation techniques. Many people like bringing family members or partners to help calm or distract them during the exam. We also recommend listening to music or watching a video you enjoy. These can help keep your mind off the exam itself and relax.
- Talk to your medical provider. While our medical providers are experts in their fields, please communicate if you are uncomfortable or concerned about the test! It may be helpful to have your provider verbally walk you through the exam. You should also let them know if you experience ANY pain during your Pap smear. It may be necessary to switch positions or use a smaller speculum for your comfort, and that’s okay!
- Self-care after your appointment. You made it! Now go treat yourself to something you enjoy – buy a new video game or book, take a spa day, or watch your favorite TV series. You’ve earned it.
And remember, you can ALWAYS tell your medical provider to stop during the exam if you experience pain or discomfort. You know your body and its limits better than we do!
If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced OB/GYNs, you can use Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s Find a Provider tool online to find the best medical provider for you.
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