Pap smears are useful tests that reveal early signs and risk factors for cervical cancer. In general, most women should have one every few years. John Judd, MD, provides the exams for patients at Midwest Urogynecology in St. Louis, Missouri. To schedule your next Pap smear or learn more, contact the office or book an appointment using the online scheduler.
A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, is an exam that checks for cervical cancer or cervical cells that could potentially lead to cancer down the road. During the appointment, which takes around 15 minutes, you sit back with your legs apart and held up in stirrups. Dr. Judd uses a swab to take a sample of the cells from your cervix. He sends this sample to a lab for analysis. Pap smears aren’t painful, but you might experience a bit of pressure.
Within a few days of your exam, Dr. Judd receives positive or negative results. Negative means you don’t have odd-looking cells in your cervix, which is a good thing. If you receive positive results, you still probably don’t have cancer. More likely, you have mild inflammation or cell changes that should improve on their own. If they don’t improve within a few months, Dr. Judd may recommend more tests, such as a colposcopy.
During this procedure, Dr. Judd places a speculum into your vagina to examine the cervix with a colposcope, tool with a lens and bright light that allows for a more clear look. He swabs vinegar or an alternate liquid onto your cervix and any areas to reveal any suspicious areas. He may see that everything’s fine at this point, or notice an area that doesn’t look quite right. In the latter case, he takes a small sample to send back to the lab for additional testing.
Ideally, you begin having Pap smears at age 21, then have additional tests every three years until you reach age 65. If at the same time you’re tested for the human papilloma virus (HPV) — a sexually transmitted infection associated with cervical cancer — you can have tests every five years.
Dr. Judd may recommend more frequent Pap smears if you have: