The main idea of the pap smear test is to do an examination of the pelvis to check for cancer and any other abnormal growths in the reproductive system. Pap smear tests are conducted on women to screen them for any risks of cervical cancer.
All women over the age of 21 years should get themselves tested for cervical cancer once every year. In fact Pap smear testing for women has been made compulsory by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
This step has been taken keeping in mind the statistics of cervical cancer; one in every three women across the globe suffers from the dreaded disease. Women who are between the ages 21 and 29 must go for pap smear testing once in two years and those over 30 years of age should get the test done once every year.
How To Prepare For Pap Smear Test?
A pap smear test should always be conducted two weeks after the first day of your menstrual cycle. Prepare yourself for the test by following some simple tips. The tips will also help in getting accurate results from the test. Correct results are important since the test is done only once a year.
Start preparing yourself for the pap smear test 48 hours before the schedule.
• Don’t take baths in the tub
• Don’t go swimming
• Don’t have vaginal sex
• Don’t douche
• Don’t insert any tampons, creams, spermicide, gels, sex toys or vaginal lubricants in the vagina.
Doing any of these can damage the cells of the cervix which may give an incorrect evaluation of the pap smear test.Reach your doctor’s office at least 15 minutes prior to the appointment. There are questions pertaining to your medical history that your doctor might want answers to.
Arriving well in advance will give the doctor ample time to speak with you. This time should also be used by you if you have questions or doubts related to pap smear test.
Some questions that the doctor will be interested in knowing the answers to are:
• The date on which you began your last menstrual cycle
• Your sexual history; when was the last time you had sex
• If you are pregnant or have ever been pregnant; whether you had normal or c-section deliveries
• Your mode of contraception; whether you take hormonal pills or rely on condoms
• If you have ever contracted any of the sexually transmitted diseases
• If you are on medication of any sort and for what reason
• If you have ever had surgery, chemotherapy or radiation performed on you
• If your pap smear test results have ever been a cause of worry
• If your mother or any relative on the maternal side has had cervical cancer
You must give answers to these questions as truthfully as possible. Lying to your doctor or giving half-truths isn’t a good idea. Once the doctor has had an estimation of your medical and sexual history he/she will begin performing the test.
What Is Involved In A Pap Smear Test?
A pap smear test can be conducted only by a qualified and licensed doctor or a medical practitioner. The test takes place in a clinic or at a hospital. In some cases a medical nurse or the doctor’s assistant can also perform the test on you.
You will be required to remove all your clothes including your undergarments. You will be given a clean and short hospital gown to change into. You will be asked to lie down flat on your back on an examination table. There will be stirrups hanging in front of the table and you will have to put your feet up on the stirrups.
Take a deep breath and relax yourself. This is important as it will help relax your pelvic muscles as well. With the pelvic muscles relaxed you will not feel much discomfort during the examination.
The examination involves insertion of a medical instrument inside the vagina. The instrument is called speculum and is generally made from plastic or metal. The speculum helps open the vagina. Next, the doctor will insert a soft bristled brush inside the opened vagina.
The brush is used to collect cells from the cervix and the wall connecting the cervix with the uterus. This connecting wall is the origin point of cervical cancer in all cases. Sometimes doctors might also use sterilized cotton swab or a wooden spatula to swipe cells from the cervix.
Some doctors are also in the habit of swiping cells from the back of the cervical canal. This is a good practice since in about 10% women the cervical cancer originates from this area. If your doctor doesn’t collect cells from the back of the cervical canal then request him to do so.
After collecting the cells from the cervix the doctor will place them on a glass slide. Your name tag will be attached to the slide and it will be sent for examination to the lab. It is the responsibility of the lab technician to detect the cells for cancer and any other abnormal growths. A microscope is used for the detection of cancer cells.
After collecting the sample cells from inside the cervix the doctor will remove the speculum from the vagina. But this is not the end of your pelvic examination. The doctor will now check for any other diseases that might have affected the reproductive system.
The pelvic examination is performed by insertion of two gloves fingers into the vagina. With his other hand the doctor will lightly press the patient’s stomach. This step is done to determine the size, shape and weight of the reproductive organs including the uterus, vagina and the fallopian tubes.
Changes of any sort in the organs are a cause of concern and reason needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible. After checking the pelvis the doctor will insert one gloved finger inside the rectum. The rectal examination is done to detect the presence of abnormal growths associated with piles, fissures and hemorrhoids.
Some women might experience light bleeding after the pelvic examination. The bleeding may be accompanied with pain in the abdomen. This is normal and can be taken care of by wearing a sanitary pad. The pain and bleeding will disappear after a couple of hours.
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