6 Common Pap Smear Mistakes Women Make

What You Need To Do Before, During, and After Your Pap Smear

A Pap smear is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. A test for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix (the opening of the uterus), it is the most effective means of screening for cervical cancer screening. Its success, however, relies heavily on its accuracy. So what can you do to help make your results more accurate?

Here are some common Pap smear mistakes women make that could influence the effectiveness of the test:

Not Getting a Regular Pap Smear

Doctor and patient exam room
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Getting your Pap smear done regularly is a highly effective way to prevent cervical cancer. A Pap smear can detect abnormal changes to the cervix long before they become cancerous. If you're between the ages of 21 and 65, you should get a Pap smear done every three years.

Having Sex, Douching, or Using Vaginal Inserts 24-48 Hours Before a Pap Smear

A general rule of thumb is not to have anything inside your vagina for 24 to 48 hours before having a Pap smear, as it can mask abnormal cells, possibly causing an inaccurate Pap smear result.

If you have intercourse, douche, or use anything in the vagina before your appointment, try to reschedule. If you are unable to reschedule, inform your doctor before the Pap is done.

Scheduling a Pap Smear at the Wrong Time in Your Cycle

The ideal time to have a Pap smear is 10 to 20 days after the start of your last period. Ideally, you should never schedule a Pap during your period. Menstrual blood and fluid can make abnormal cells difficult to detect, possibly causing an inaccurate result. You may be able to get a Pap test if the flow is light. Consult with your doctor if your appointment coincides with a period. He may want to reschedule.

Not Knowing How You Will Receive Pap Results

Ask your doctor or one of his medical assistants how you will be notified of your results. Many doctor's offices relay normal results by mail. Abnormal results are typically shared with a phone call. Some doctors will not contact you at all if the results were normal.

Neglecting to Tell the Doctor of Previous Abnormal Pap Smears

Your doctor needs to know if you have had previous abnormal Pap smears. Let her know when the abnormal Pap smear occurred, the exact results of the Pap smear, and the results of any subsequent Pap smears. Be sure to also tell your doctor if you had a colposcopy, biopsy, or any other treatment related to an abnormal Pap smear.

If you have copies of previous Pap smear, colposcopy, biopsy, or treatment records, bring them with you to the appointment.

Not Following Your Doctor's Recommendations After an Abnormal Pap Smear Result

If you have received abnormal Pap smear results, it is essential to follow your doctor's recommendations. This may mean repeating the Pap smear or having a colposcopy. Follow-up procedures vary, depending on the results of the Pap smear.

Your doctor's office will schedule an appointment for you to have a repeat pap smear or colposcopy (if your doctor performs colposcopies), or will refer you to a gynecologist who performs colposcopies.

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