Pap Smears at Coyle Institute
Even though Coyle Institute is a medical destination for women across the country seeking innovative treatments for difficult-to-treat health issues, we are also equipped to perform routine women’s health examinations and screenings. One of these important routine screenings is a Pap smear which tests for cervical cancer. Considering how deadly cervical cancer can be without early detection, it is important for women to never miss a Pap smear.
How Pap Smears Work
Pap smears work by looking for abnormal cell changes on the cervix and can detect precancerous cells. A Pap test can result in either normal cells, inconclusive results or abnormal cells. After collecting cells from your cervix, your doctor will examine the cells under a microscope for signs of disease. If any abnormalities are seen, you will undergo further diagnostic tests to rule out cancer.
What to Expect During Your Pap Smear
Pap testing is a short, but important part of your routine wellness visit at Coyle Institute. For the test, you will lie down on your back on an exam table with your knees bent. Your heels will rest comfortably in supports called stirrups. Next, your doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The purpose of the speculum is to hold the walls of your vagina apart so that your doctor can easily see your cervix. Inserting the speculum may cause a sensation of pressure in your pelvic area, but it should not hurt. Lastly, your doctor will take samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush and a flat scraping device called a spatula.
Who Should Receive Pap Smears and When
All women should start Pap smear screenings at age 21, regardless of sexual activity. Between the ages of 21–29, women whose Pap smears are normal only need the test repeated every three years. Women ages 30 and over can be tested every five years as long as testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is also done with their Pap smear. HPV, which is sexually transmitted, is the most common cause of cervical cancer.
Pap Smear Preparation and Recovery
Not much preparation is necessary for a Pap smear. Still, you should avoid intercourse, douching or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jellies for two days before the screening, as these may alter or obscure abnormal cells. You should also try not to schedule a Pap smear during your menstrual period. There is typically no recovery period from a Pap smear, although it is normal to experience mild cramping during the procedure. Some people experience more intense cramping that is similar to or worse than that during a period. Others may notice the cramping lasting one to two days after the test.
There are typically no side effects other than bleeding afterward, which is normal. If bleeding after a Pap smear is from normal causes, such as a cervical scratch, the bleeding should stop within a few hours. Spotting may last for up to two days, but the bleeding will become lighter. Avoid sex and tampon use during this time, as the additional pressure may cause bleeding to start again or become heavier.
Abnormal Pap Smears
Rest assured that an abnormal Pap smear result does not mean you have cervical cancer. In most cases, an abnormal result simply means that some cells have changed on your cervix. Some causes for abnormal Pap smears are inflammation, vaginal infection, sexually transmitted diseases and HPV. The most common cause of abnormal changes to cervical cells comes from HPV. Depending on your doctor’s interpretation of your abnormal cells, the next step is usually a colposcopy—a procedure in which your doctor uses a microscope to examine your cervix. A special solution is used during the colposcopy to help differentiate the normal cells from the abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are seen, a small biopsy will be taken and sent to the lab for further testing.
Scheduling your routine Pap smear is essential in detecting cervical cancer. Call us today to schedule yours at 850-637-8258.