The What, Why and How of the Pap TestWhat’s with the funny name and exactly how is it done? Both are good questions, but why you need a Pap test may be the most important thing to know before you have one.

What is a Pap Test?

The Pap test (short for the name of the inventor Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou) is a vaginal screening for cervical cancer that should be part of every woman’s health care after you turn 21. The test collects cervical cells to be examined for abnormal growth and other indications of precancerous or cancerous cells.

How is a Pap Test Done?

The way a Pap test is completed is what makes some women wary of it. Having a medical device inserted into your vagina might seem invasive and quite uncomfortable, but a Pap test doesn’t need to be either for you.

First, prepare for an accurate Pap test. Don’t schedule it during your period and avoid vaginal intercourse for two days prior to the test. Wear comfortable and easily removable clothing. Some doctors will have you undress from the waist down but others may want you to remove all of your clothes, especially if you’re having a breast exam along with the Pap test.

The speculum is a device that’s inserted to hold the vaginal walls apart so your doctor can see and reach the cervix. It’s a bit bigger than a tampon but smaller than the average penis, so for many women the sensation may feel odd but not unfamiliar.

Your doctor will then use a flat scraping device or brush to take samples of your cervical cells. This won’t hurt, but it may feel odd. Now the speculum is removed and the procedure is complete. There’s no special after-care and you can go on with your regular activities that day.

Why Pap Tests are Important

You need a Pap test every three to five years until age 65 because cervical cancer often has no physical symptoms until it progresses to an advanced stage. The good news is that the Pap test, when combined with a regular program of screening and appropriate follow-up, can reduce cervical cancer deaths by up to 80%.

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Northline Women’s Health Center in Southgate and Brownstown is here to help with all your gynecology needs and questions. Schedule an appointment online today. 

Northline Women's Health Center Locations:

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Southgate, MI 48195

(734) 282-3600
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Brownstown Twp., MI 48183

(734) 362-7000
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