Some young women may be surprised to learn Pap smears aren’t just for those who are sexually active. The purpose of a Pap smear is to collect cells from the cervix and screen for abnormal cells.
How can a Pap smear help protect you?
Abnormal cells, often resulting from exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), are warning signs that you may develop cervical cancer later in life. Sexual intercourse increases a woman’s risk of exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. However, a Pap smear can help protect sexually inactive women who have a family history of cervical cancer as well.
Since the advent of Pap smears in the 1950s, the incidence of cervical cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths for women at that time—has declined by 60 percent.
When should you get your first Pap smear?
The frequency of Pap smears vary depending on each person’s unique risk factors, however, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH) recommends all sexually active and inactive women with no known risks should have their first Pap smear at age 21.
Most women aged 21-65 years should get Pap smears at least every three years as part of their routine health care even if you are not sexually active, have received the HPV vaccine or have gone through menopause.
What happens during a Pap smear?
During a Pap smear, doctor or nurse inserts a warmed speculum (a tool that gently opens your vagina, so your doctor or nurse can see your cervix) into your vagina and uses a special swab or soft brush to collect cells from the outside of your cervix. The cells are sent to a laboratory for testing. The Pap smear itself is a very quick process, however it is commonly included as part of your well-woman exam, which includes completing a medical history questionnaire, checking vitals (e.g., blood pressure, heart and respiration rates and temperature) and conducting a physical exam of the head, neck, glands, abdomen and breasts.
If you are looking for a compassionate, board-certified gynecologist to perform your first Pap smear in McKinney and Prosper, Texas, please call Adriatica Women’s Health at 972-542-8884. We are here to help you understand what to expect each step of the way and are focused on your comfort.