A pap smear, also called a pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. A pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix the lower, narrow end of your uterus.
Detecting cervical cancer early with a pap smear gives you a greater chance for treatment and curing of cervical cancer. A pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Early detection of these cells is your first step in stopping the possible development of cervical cancer. Furthermore, a pap smear can also detect any infection that you may or may not have. A pap smear can be done in conjunction with a pelvic examination.
You’ll be asked to change out of your clothes and into an examination gown in privacy. This means that you will need to take of your bra and panties as well. Depending on the procedure, if it is only a pap smear or in combination with pelvic examination, your health care practitioner might even ask you just to take off your clothes from the waist downwards.
During the pap smear, you will lie on your back on an examination bed. To allow your health care practitioner to examine you more comfortable, you will have to bend your knees and place your feet on the corners of the bed for support. You’ll be asked to slide your body toward the end of the bed and let your knees fall apart.
To assist your health care practitioner, try to keep your legs as far apart as possible. This will allow your health care practitioner to examine you more thoroughly and this will be less uncomfortable for you.
Your health care practitioner will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of the vagina apart so that your health care practitioner can easily see your cervix. Inserting the speculum may cause sensation of pressure in your pelvic area. The procedure is not painful, but may be uncomfortable due to the cold lubrication and the speculum that is inserted in your vagina.
Then your health care practitioner will take two samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush and/or a flat scraping device called a spatula. This doesn’t hurt and you may not even feel the sample being taken.
The sample is then spread onto two microscope slides and sprayed with fixation spray to keep the cells in place. He/she might also transfer the cells collected into a container containing a special liquid to preserve the sample and this is called a liquid-bases pap smear test
After removal of the speculum, your health care practitioner might perform or continue with a pelvic examination.
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