WHAT IS A PAP SMEAR?

WHAT IS A PAP SMEAR?

 

So you just turned 21, and it’s time for the dreaded “Pap Smear” at your doctor’s office.

 

WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!?!?!

 

Good question.

 

First off, why do we do it? It’s to check for and prevent cervical cancer.

 

Cervical cancer is one of the ONLY cancers that grows so slowly that we have time to catch it before it gets bad.

 

Abnormal “pre-cancer” cells will develop first, before they grow into cancer cells. Sometimes this takes years.

 

What is a cervix?

 

Think of your uterus as an upside-down pear.

 
uterus pear analogy

The vagina is a hollow tube attached to the “head” (smaller part) of the pear. It is stretchy, like a Fruit Roll-Up, so that a baby’s head can fit through!

The cervix is the “head” of the pear, where the stem is.

 

Since your doctor doesn’t have x-ray vision, (s)he needs to look at the cervix from a different angle, head-on, from below through your vagina. This is why the cervix has sometimes been called a “donut.”

Using an instrument called a “Speculum,” which looks like a duck’s bill and opens just enough to see the cervix. They can be made of metal or plastic.

speculum duck's bill pap smear
what is a pap smear diagram side view

There are many shapes and sizes. Some are smaller than a tampon. Your doctor will try to use the smallest one possible that works to get the job done.

 

 

The pap smear is then done with a small brush. It takes a sample of a few cells of your cervix, to be looked at under a microscope. Your doctor may also test for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which affects the growth of abnormal cells.

what is a pap smear normal vs. abnormal cervix

You may feel crampy pain, or have some bleeding afterwards. It is not bad compared to a period.


Speaking of which, did you know you can still get a pap smear during your period as long as the bleeding isn’t too heavy? Click here for other common questions asked about the pap smear!


You will get your result in a week or so. If it’s normal, you do not need another pap smear for 3-5 years, depending on your age and other risk factors.


If any abnormal cells are found, your doctor will either watch you more closely by repeating the pap smear sooner or do a procedure to investigate further or even to remove them.

 

Pap smears have made a HUGE difference in saving lives!!

 

Unfortunately, cervical cancer is still one of the most common cancers out there, and according to 2019 statistics in the US alone, about 13,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and 4,000 will die from it!

 

Help us fight cervical cancer by always getting your Pap Smear checkups ON TIME!!

 

Have more questions about Pap Smears? Click here for Q&A!

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Who am I?
Hi! I'm Dr. Toni, a carTOONIst. I empower, educate and advocate for women and minorities through my art and coaching, while traveling nomadically. I help others also follow our hearts and live true to themselves, no matter what others say!
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