Getting a Pap smear is an important preventive measure that protects your health. But if you’ve never had this essential exam, it’s natural to be a little nervous and wonder what you can expect and why it’s so important.
At his private practice in White Plains and Queens, New York, board-certified gynecologist Daniel S. Kushner, MD, and his team understand. Nothing is more important to us than your health and comfort. We’ve created this helpful guide so you know what to expect and how to prepare for your first Pap smear.
What can I expect at my first Pap smear?
This quick exam takes place at our office. During the procedure, you rest on an exam table with your heels in supports called stirrups. Your provider uses a special tool called a speculum to expand your vagina so they can swab your cervix to collect cells for analysis.
The entire test takes minutes, and while it might make you feel uncomfortable to have someone examine this private part of your body, the test doesn’t hurt. You might feel some pressure during the swab, but it’s over in seconds.
When should I get my first Pap smear?
While everyone is different, most women should get their first Pap smear at age 21. After your first Pap smear, Dr. Kushner recommends a schedule for future Pap smears depending on your age and the results of your test.
Generally, Dr. Kushner follows the recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which are:
- Pap smear every three years for women 21-29 years old
- Pap smear every 3-5 years for women 30-65 years old
- Pap smear only with history of abnormal test for women 66 years and older
Remember, these are only guidelines. You might need a Pap smear more often if your results are abnormal.
How do I prepare for a Pap smear?
There’s not much you need to do to prepare for your Pap smear. It can help to practice some deep breathing if you’re feeling nervous, because tensing your muscles during the exam can make getting the speculum in and out less comfortable.
For your own comfort, you might want to forego scheduling your Pap smear during your period. You should avoid having sex or using any spermicidal cream, jelly, or foam for a day or two before your exam, as they can interfere with abnormal cells.
Why is a Pap smear so important?
Your Pap test can detect the potential for serious health problems before you have noticeable symptoms, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and cervical dysplasia, as well as life-threatening cancers.
The Pap smear checks for abnormal cells and the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is very common and doesn’t always cause problems. But it can trigger low-risk issues, like genital warts, as well as high-risk conditions that lead to different cancers, especially cervical cancer.
Thousands of women in the US get diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. A simple Pap smear can save your life because it lets your provider know if you have HPV or early signs of cancer, allowing you to get treatment as soon as possible.
To learn more about how to prepare for your Pap smear or to set up this important health screening, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Kushner in White Plains or Queens, New York.