A Pap smear is a test that checks for precancerous and cancerous cells inside your cervix, the part of the uterus that connects to your vagina.
When you have a Pap smear, Dr. Brathwaite may also perform a human papillomavirus (HPV) test, which detects some strains of the virus that can trigger precancerous changes in your cells.
Dr. Brathwaite performs a Pap smear test during a pelvic exam at Innovative Women’s Care. She dilates your vagina using a speculum and then uses a small round brush tool to remove a tiny amount of cellular material from your cervix. The test isn't painful, but you could feel some fleeting discomfort.
After your Pap smear, laboratory evaluation shows whether the cell sample is normal or abnormal. It may take at least several days to get the results. If you have normal results, you typically won't need to see Dr. Brathwaite until your next well-woman exam.
If you have abnormal results, Dr. Brathwaite may schedule an in-office colposcopy, a procedure to view your cervix under high magnification. She may take a small sample (a biopsy) of cervical tissue for cancer testing.
Dr. Brathwaite can recommend a Pap smear schedule that works for you. Pap smear frequency depends on a few different factors, including your age, your Pap smear history, and your whole-body health. She may recommend a Pap smear yearly or every 3-5 years.
If you have HPV and Pap smear co-testing, you may need to test less frequently than you would with Pap smear tests alone.
If you're in good health and have at least two or three normal HPV or Pap screening tests in a row, Dr. Brathwaite may tell you that you can discontinue cervical cancer screenings at the age of 65.
The HPV vaccine protects against some types of HPV but not all. Therefore, you must still have cervical cancer screening tests according to the schedule Dr. Brathwaite recommends.
Pap smear testing is one of the simplest and easiest ways to take control of your health and prevent cancer. To learn more about Pap smears or to schedule your test, call the Innovative Women’s Care office or click on the online appointment scheduler.