Pap smears are a critical part of preventive women’s health care. These quick tests collect cells to check for signs of cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Judith Gurdian, MD, Michelle Spector, MD, Tanya Ghatan, MD, and the rest of the team at Capital Women’s Care provide Pap smears and follow-up care for women who live in and around Rockville, Maryland. If you’re due for a Pap smear, call or schedule an appointment online today.
A Pap smear is a simple test that screens for abnormal cells and other signs of cancer and certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). During your Pap smear, you recline on a treatment table with your feet in stirrups and a sheet draped over your knees. Your doctor uses a speculum to hold your vagina open while they use a tool that looks like a long mascara brush to collect cells from your cervix.
A Pap smear isn’t painful, although the speculum puts pressure on your vaginal walls. You might also sometimes hear the procedure described as scraping cells from your cervix, but it’s really more like a gentle brushing.
Cervical cancer and HPV, like many other cancers and diseases, don’t typically cause noticeable symptoms during their early stages. A Pap smear is the most effective way to check for abnormal cells on your cervix so if there is an issue, you can get the treatment you need quickly and before the issue develops into a more serious condition.
Pap smears are generally recommended every three years for women between the ages of 21-65. You may start to have Pap smears at a younger age if you become sexually active earlier. If you have a personal or family history of cervical cancer or abnormal Pap smear results, you may need to have more frequent tests. Your doctor provides you with customized advice on how often you should have Pap smears.
If your Pap smear has abnormal results, your doctor may want to perform more tests to get more information about the cells. They may use a colposcopy, which is a diagnostic test that uses a colposcopy — a magnifying glass or telescope that your doctor looks through to examine your cervix more closely. The colposcope stays outside of your body but your doctor uses a speculum to hold your vagina open to get a clear view. Your doctor may also suggest a biopsy to get a bigger sample of cells for further diagnosis.
Once your doctor knows what is causing the abnormality, they offer customized treatment to remove the abnormal cells or heal the condition causing the abnormality.
Call or schedule your next Pap smear online today.