Cervical cancer screening: Are you due for your Pap test?
Cancer is a frightening disease that’s difficult to treat, but there are many screening tests available to check for certain cancers. A screening test is a health exam or lab test performed despite the absence of symptoms. It enables physicians to find potential problems as early as possible. A highly recommended screening for women is the cervical cancer screening, also called the Pap test . If you have any questions or concerns about cervical cancer screenings, a physician at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center are here to help you.
When to schedule a Pap test
Women from ages 21 through 65 should receive cervical cancer screenings. The specific guidelines vary, as they are issued by different health organizations. Some of these guidelines are:
- Pap test every three years for women ages 21 to 29
- Pap test and HPV test every five years for women ages 30 to 65
- No Pap tests after age 65 if recent results have been normal
Your doctor may give you guidance that deviates from these guidelines, depending on your health history or risk factors. Always follow your doctor’s suggestion, as they will consider your risk factors and age to provide customized recommendations for scheduling your Pap tests.
How to prepare for your Pap test
Pap tests are straightforward medical exams, but they do require a little preparation. Schedule your appointment for a time when you do not expect to have your period. Do not do any of the following:
- Have sex for 24 hours prior to the appointment
- Use contraceptives with spermicides for 72 hours before the test
- Use vaginal medications, creams or douches for 72 hours beforehand
What to expect from a Pap test
When you arrive at the doctor’s office or hospital, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown. You’ll need to remove your underwear. You’ll be given a paper sheet to place over your lap.
When the doctor comes in the exam room, you’ll be asked to lie flat on your back, with your bottom at the edge of the table and your feet in stirrups. The doctor will then perform the following steps:
- Use a sterile tool called a speculum to gently open the vagina
- Insert a small brush or spatula
- Swab a sample of cells from the cervix
- Remove the speculum
It only takes a few minutes to perform a Pap test, although it’s often combined with a general physical exam and breast exam.
Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center is a trusted provider of comprehensive women’s care in Las Vegas. Our state-of-the-art hospital also includes an oncology unit, where patients and their families receive compassionate, personalized services. You can call a nurse at (702) 233-5300 to request a physician referral.