Well woman exams are the foundation for wellness, health promotion and disease identification and management throughout your life. A Well Woman Exam, also known as a Pap-smear, is a diagnostic test of a sample of cells from the surface of a woman’s cervix to check for abnormalities that can develop into cancer. It also checks for:
- Inflammation of the cervix
- Infection of the cervix
- Changes or abnormalities (cervical dysplasia) that could develop into cancer
Cervical cancer develops relatively slowly, so abnormalities detected early can be treated before cancer develops.
Prior to Procedure:
- Do not schedule the Pap test during your menstrual period; if possible, schedule it two weeks after the first day of your period.
- do not use vaginal creams, medications, or douches for 72 hours before the test.
- Do not use contraceptives such as spermicidal foams, creams, or jellies for 72 hours before the test.
- Do not have intercourse for 24 hours before the test.
Tell your doctor if any of the following are true:
- You are having your period
- You are pregnant
- You had a previous Pap test showing abnormalities
- You are sexually active
- You have been exposed to HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases
- You have had abnormal vaginal discharges or vaginal infections
- You have had surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy
- You are taking birth control pills, hormone pills, or using hormone cream
- Do not apply deodorant, talcum power, lotion, or perfume near your breasts or under your arms.
- some women experience less discomfort during brest compression if they take two ibuprofen tablets about an hour before the test.
- Wear a two-piece outfit; you will need to remove all of your clothing and jewelry from the waist up and change into a gown that opens in the front.
- Bring copies of previous mammogram’s and reports with you.
- Inform the technician if you are pregnant or have brest implants.
- Describe any brest problems to the technician before x-rays are taken
During the Procedure:
You lie on your back on an examination table, with legs spread and feet placed in foot rests. A medical instrument, called a speculum, is gently inserted into the vagina, and opened so that the doctor can view the cervix. At this point, a pelvic exam is done. For this exam, the doctor checks the uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, rectum, and bladder.
For the Pap test, a wooden swab, brush, or stick is inserted into the vagina and used to wipe the walls of the cervix to retrieve cervical cells. These cells are placed on a glass microscope slide and sent to a laboratory for testing and evaluation. The whole procedure will take roughly 20 minutes.
After the Procedure:
Results of your Pap test are sent to your doctor within 2-3 weeks. Your doctor will then inform you of the results, and, if necessary, discuss any follow-up testing or treatment:
- If the cells retrieved were normal, no further treatment will be necessary. Make sure to have another Pap test with your doctor during your next yearly pelvic exam.
- If an infection is found, further treatment will be prescribed.
- If abnormalities are found, further tests will be performed. Once the cause of the abnormality is determined, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Further tests include:
- Colposcopy – an examination of the vagina and cervix with a colposcope which allows the doctor to see the cervix more clearly.
- Biopsy – removal of a small amount of cervical tissue for further testing.