What IS a Pap smear anyway?

You know you need a Pap smear and a pelvic exam, but you may just be making appointments without considering what those health care appointments actually do for you.

Her Wellness is here to help! Dr. Garritano explains what she and Nurse Practitioner Christina Martin are screening for during your exams. 

Why is it called a Pap smear?
It’s named after Georgios Papanikolaou. He invented the test with Aurel Babes in the 1920’s. 

What does a Pap smear test for?
Dr. Pap discovered there were differences in types of cervical cells when viewed under a microscope.  He was able to identify and differentiate between normal cells and malignant cells. Before the invention of this simple, inexpensive test, cervical cancer was the number one cancer killer of women. Now, it is 13th, as the Pap smear has reduced cervical cancer deaths by 70%. 

It does not test for HPV (human papillomavirus), which is the primary cause of cervical cancer, but an HPV test can be done at the time of your Pap smear. 

How are these cells collected?
At your exam, Dr. G or Christina will insert a speculum into your vagina and  then get cells from your cervix with a spatula and/or soft brush. You may feel a little pressure or irritation. You can have some mild spotting after this procedure

What happens to these cells?
Your cells are preserved and then sent to a lab, where they are examined for any abnormalities. 

What kind of test results should I expect?
A normal result means just that - there are no cancerous or precancerous cells in your cervix. An abnormal result means your cells didn’t look as expected, but there are many reasons for an abnormal result. At Her Wellness, we do not do “no news is good news”.  Normal results are posted to the patient portal, while for results that need more discussion, a televisit will be scheduled.

What could prevent a good sampling?
Many things can interfere with normal test results:

How is a pelvic exam different?
A pelvic exam is a visual and manual examination of your vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries and uterus. Dr. G or Christina will look for redness, sores, inflammation, discharge, irritation, cysts and other abnormalities. Your provider will then insert two fingers into your vagina and place the other hand on your abdomen, feeling for any irregularities in your reproductive and sexual organs. 

At any time during your exam, Dr. G and Christina welcome your questions and concerns, and will provide full answers in terms you can understand. 

Is it time for your annual exam? Or are you not exactly sure? You can make an appointment by clicking here, or you can call 203-409-2539 and we’ll check the date of your last exam. Her Wellness is here to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be. 

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