Do You Need a Pap Smear if You’re Not Sexually Active?
For most woman, they have experienced the slightly uncomfortable and routine procedure called a wake forest Pap smear. Regardless of your personal feelings, Pap smears play a critical role in female health.
A Pap smear, which may also be called a Pap test, is a screening which is completed at the doctor’s office. The screening is typically performed by a gynecologist, nurse practitioner or family doctor. A Pap smear test is used to screen for abnormal cells, cervical cancer and any abnormalities in the cervix.
The procedure will involve the doctor gently scraping cells from the cervix which will be examined. While it can be slightly uncomfortable and awkward, Pap smears should not be painful. Below are the top questions and facts to know regarding the simple, potentially lifesaving screening.
In most cases, women should have a Pap smear completed every three years. The current guidelines suggest women begin receiving routine Pap smears once they are 21 years old.
Some women may require more frequent screenings. This is especially important for patients with an increased risk for cervical cancer or infection. For some women who are over 65 years old, they may no longer need to receive Pap smears. Follow up with your doctor regarding the best plan based on your individual needs.
Regardless if the patient is sexually active, a Pap smear is still necessary. Although most types of cervical cancers are caused by the sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus (HPV), it does not cause every type of cervical cancer. As a result, Pap smears are a necessary screening for patients whether they are sexually active or not.
A Pap smear does not actually screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Rather, Pap smears test for any abnormal cell changes which are present in the cervix and could result in or be cervical cancer. Pap smears are not used to test for HPV or other STDs, including gonorrhea or chlamydia. Follow up with your doctor if you wish to be tested for STDs.
A Pap smear differs from a pelvic exam, however, both are important. Pelvic exams are typically completed at annual well-woman visits by a gynecologist. During the pelvic exam, the doctor will examine the vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, rectum and pelvis for any abnormalities or concerns. A Pap smear, in comparison, tests specifically for cervical cancer. Pap smears can be completed at the same time as an annual pelvic exam.
If you are menstruating, you may want to reschedule your Pap smear. While it is possible to get a Pap smear while you are having your period, it can impact the screening results. Follow up with your doctor’s office to determine if the appointment can proceed or needs to be rescheduled.
A pelvic exam, however, does not need to be rescheduled for women who are menstruating. The appointment only needs to be rescheduled if the exam is being performed due to abnormal discharge or another issue.
It is possible for cervical cancer symptoms to be mistaken for other common issues. Because of this, it is vital to get regular Pap smears and detect issues right away as it can save your life.