A Pap smear is a regular part of a woman’s gynecological exam. While it takes just a few seconds, the test reveals essential information about your health and screens for cervical cancer. At Calvary Medical Clinic, experienced family medicine physician Dr. Magdalene Marfo offers Pap smears as part of a woman’s annual wellness exam. If you live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, call the office or use the online booking tool to make your appointment today.
A Pap smear is a test that collects a small sampling of cells from your cervix. The cells are then sent to a laboratory to check for any irregularities.
Women older than 21 should generally get regular Pap smears, even if you aren’t having intercourse or are in a monogamous relationship.
A Pap smear once every three years is sufficient, and you may wait five years between them if you’ve had three normal tests in a row. If you are over 65 and have had normal Pap smears, you may opt out of the test altogether.
Some women may need more frequent tests, including:
A Pap smear usually occurs in conjunction with your regular gynecological exam.
You lie on an exam table with your legs elevated. Dr. Marfo uses a speculum to separate the walls of the vagina and with a small swab, collects cells at the cervix. You may feel a slight push or irritation during the test, but it only lasts a few seconds.
A normal Pap smear means that you have no irregular cells and that you have no signs of human papillomavirus (HPV) or precancerous/cancerous cells. A normal test may also be referred to as “negative.”
An abnormal Pap smear is not a diagnosis of cancer. It’s most likely that you have mildly irregular cells that are due to aging, temporary inflammation, or a previous infection with HPV, a common sexually-transmitted virus.
In most cases, Dr. Marfo recommends a follow-up Pap smear a few months later to see if you still have abnormal cells present. They often clear up on their own.
However, she may recommend a test known as a colposcopy that involves a more in-depth examination of your cervix to investigate the cell abnormality. If this reveals more suspicious cells, she may take a biopsy or larger sampling of cells for testing.