For some women, having a pap test can be an intimidating and scary experience, as pelvic exams aren’t normally or frequently discussed. While a pap test is relatively fast and painless, it can bring about many questions on what to expect. To help reduce any anxiety that may arise, here are a few things you need to be aware of before your first exam.
What Is a Pap Test?
A pap smear (also known as a pap test or pelvic exam) is a cervical screening procedure to spot and identify any presence of precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix (entrance to the womb from the vagina). Offered to women from the age of 25, visits are recommended every 3 years and every 5 years when you get over 50. However, if you are under the age of 25 and worried about your chances of developing cervical cancer, you can visit your GP and arrange an appointment to seek advice.
What to Expect for Your First Pap Test?
The procedure consists of your nurse or GP asking you to undress below the waist, and lay down on an examination bed with a paper sheet placed over you. Once you are in position and comfortable, your feet will be bent in a 90- degree angle allowing your nurse to insert a lubricated speculum slowly into your vagina. This will gently open the vagina allowing the nurse to see your cervix. If you experience too much discomfort with this, you can ask for more lubricant to be applied to the speculum beforehand to make the insertion process easier. Once your clinician has a clear view of your cervix, they will take a quick swab using a soft brush to collect a sample of the cells to be tested in the laboratory.
How Long Does It Last For?
Your screening appointment shouldn’t last longer than 20 minutes, with the actual procedure taking approximately 3 minutes. The remainder of your appointment will be dedicated to answering any questions or concerns you may have and the nurse explaining the screening process. Don’t worry if you’re feeling a little nervous and uncomfortable, your nurse will understand and wait for you to get as comfortable as possible.
How Often Do I Need to Have a Pap Test?
So, your first smear is over, that wasn’t too bad, was it? The recommended amount of times a woman should undergo a pap smear is every three years. However, this recommendation is based on women showing normal and healthy cells. Results showing abnormal cells will require you a retest a short period after the original screening. It’s important to remember that abnormal cells are not always caused by cervical cancer and can usually treated quickly and painlessly.
Whilst this experience isn’t the most enjoyable, it isn’t painful or scary. Your smear test takes minutes and can save your life– so why wouldn’t you go?
Your screening appointment shouldn't last longer than 20 minutes, with the actual procedure taking approximately 3 minutes.