A pap smear is a test designed to check a woman’s cervix for signs of abnormal cell growth. The primary purpose of this test is to screen for cancerous or precancerous cells.
During a pap smear, Dr. Slaughter asks the patient to recline on the exam table with her feet in the stirrups. Dr. Slaughter inserts a speculum into the vagina and uses a small brush to collect a few cells from the cervix. These cells are then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
The results of a pap smear may be normal or abnormal. A normal result means that the cells collected during the pap smear appear to be normal. If the result is abnormal, the cells collected during the pap smear appear to be abnormal.
An abnormal result doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient has cancer. Patients may have an abnormal result because of cervical cancer, precancerous cells, or a problem with the test. It’s possible to have a normal result and still have cervical cancer in rare cases.
If a patient has an abnormal pap smear, further testing will be required. In some cases, Dr. Slaughter may order another pap smear. In other cases, more extensive testing may be necessary. If Dr. Slaughter confirms a diagnosis of cervical cancer, she will refer the patient to an oncologist for treatment.
Women should begin getting pap smears after they reach the age of 21 or become sexually active. Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a pap smear at least once every 3 years. After the age of 30, women can begin getting pap smears once every 5 years if they also get HPV testing.
Pap smears shouldn’t be painful. However, some women may experience mild discomfort during the exam. Following the exam, some women may notice cramping and/or bleeding. In most cases, these side effects subside quickly.
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