A pap smear is a medical test that is used to detect precancerous or cancerous growths in the cervix. Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer but it is also one of the easiest to prevent with regular screening. Women over 30 years old are at a higher risk of getting cervical cancer but it can affect women of all ages. Therefore, it’s necessary for every woman especially those of childbearing age get a pap smear. If you’re thinking about getting the test, here are some things you should know.
It’s Mostly Painless But Can Be Uncomfortable
In this age of technology, most of us tend to Google every kind of medical procedure before seeing an actual doctor. This can lead to panic since people have different experiences – in the past, people have had painful experiences. The procedure has become better in the last few years.
Some people might have a medical condition that makes them feel pain during such tests. Generally, a pap smear is not supposed to be painful but it can be uncomfortable. However, first-timers may experience slight discomfort and a small pinch which most people should be able to handle. If you feel extreme pain, it’s recommended that you should stop the exam.
Menstruation Can Affect Result
When booking a pap smear, schedule it before or after your periods. This is not only sanitary for the gynaecologist but also it ensures that you get accurate results. Menstrual blood can make it difficult for a doctor to identify cells collected from your body giving you inaccurate results. If you happen to get your periods on the day of the exam, you should reschedule the appointment until you’re done with your cycle. The best time to schedule your appointment is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.
Shave Your Pubic Hair
Since we’re talking about hygiene, you should also consider shaving down there at least 2 days before getting a pap smear. This isn’t compulsory but it may help you feel more comfortable on the examination table. Comfort is key to having a stress-free and pain-free examination. However, your OB/GYN doesn’t really care whether you shave or not. Remember, they’re used to inspecting this area so don’t worry about how it looks.
Don’t Have Intercourse
A pap smear is a sensitive exam since it checks for cells. Any abnormalities or inflammation will be detected and can give an inaccurate result. Sex can irritate the skin leading to inflammation. Sexual fluids can also be detected as abnormalities. This is why you should avoid having intercourse at least 48 hours prior to your exam. However, if you happen to have sex before your exam, don’t cancel the appointment. Your doctor can still do the exam.
Don’t Shower, Douche, Or Use A Tampon
Douching, taking a bath, using vaginal products and tampons can all affect the pap smear result. As mentioned, this exam is extremely sensitive to foreign substances. Douching can wash away the surface cells leading to an inaccurate pap smear result. Additionally, taking a bath, douching, or using vaginal products can alter the pH of the cells and hide abnormal cells. You can take a shower, just make sure that you avoid using any products around your vagina.
Tell Your Doctor If You’re Pregnant
Women can get pregnant even if they have cervical cancer in the early stages. It’s also safe to get treatment for cervical cancer when you’re pregnant. It’s, therefore, important to get a pap smear when you’re pregnant in order to detect any abnormal cells that could be potentially dangerous. In fact, women with an active sex life are recommended to get a pap smear regularly. When pregnant, your gynaecologist will check for the same cell changes that could potentially cause cervical cancer.
Empty Your Bladder
Finally, don’t forget to empty your bladder. This could save you from having an “accident” on the examination table. It’s common to get nervous during such an exam and the pressure on your pelvis can feel worse on a full bladder. If you have to go, let the nurse or doctor’s assistant know so they can take a urine sample if they need one. Bad Bladder Habits You Need To Stop
Tip: if you feel nervous during a pap smear, try deep breathing, listening to music, chatting with the doctor, closing your eyes, or wiggling your toes to help you relax.
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