Your Pap smear is an essential part of your well-woman exam, and the most crucial tool for cervical cancer prevention. The test isn’t painful, is quickly administered, and involves your doctor securing a sample of cervical cells that can be studied in the lab to make sure everything looks normal.
Getting your Pap smear should be part of your regular preventive self-care, just like getting your mammogram if you’re a certain age, or getting your flu shot each year.
The Life’s Cycle team is dedicated to your continuing wellness, and Dr. Pamela Kimbrough performs your Pap smear with expertise and sensitivity. She’s always open to answering your questions, listening to any concerns you may have, and delivering the best care at our offices in Ardmore and Norman, Oklahoma.
Why a Pap test is vital
We’ve learned that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. There are over 100 types of the virus, but two have been found to be the main culprits linked to the development of cervical cancer. In addition to your Pap smear, an HPV test has been developed that tests for that virus.
This is why you now can get your Pap smear and HPV tests separately or at the same time with an HPV/Pap smear “two-in-one” cotest.
So, getting your Pap smear along with an HPV test, whether at the same time or separately, means that you catch cervical cancer very early, and that you and Dr. Kimbrough can be especially watchful if you end up having positive HPV test results.
What happens during a Pap test?
When you get your Pap test, you simply lay back comfortably on the examining table in our office, and Dr. Kimbrough gently inserts a device called a speculum into your vagina. It opens your vagina so she can see and access your cervix in order to take the cell sample.
She then inserts a swab-like tool, spatula, or brush to get a sample of cells from your cervix. You may feel slight momentary discomfort as she does that, but nothing severe or long-lasting. Dr. Kimbrough then sends the sample to a lab for analysis.
If any abnormalities are found, she follows up with a more detailed test called a colposcopy. During this procedure, a tool called a colposcope allows Dr. Kimbrough to examine your cervix in a more highly detailed way, thanks to its magnifying capabilities, in order to do further testing.
How often should I get a Pap test?
The guidelines about how often women should get Pap smears were updated in 2020, based on age and whether you get an HPV test separately or at the same time (the cotest).
It’s recommended that a woman get her first Pap test at age 21, and be retested every three years until age 30. If you’re 30 or older and you will get HPV testing along with the Pap. Please be aware that “getting a Pap every 3 years” does not mean getting an exam every 3 years. The other years when the Pap is not collected, the remaining exam is still performed and is important.
Most women 65 and older don’t have to get Pap smears, though certain factors, like any past history of abnormal cervical cells, may change what’s recommended for you. A conversation with Dr. Kimbrough is advised for patients when they turn 65, but no matter what age you are, when in doubt, consult with Dr. Kimbrough on your advised testing schedule.
As an integral part of your preventive health care, Dr. Kimbrough always takes the opportunity to discuss it with you at your well-woman exam.