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Pap tests Overview
Sometimes called a Pap smear, the Pap test is a common procedure physicians use to test for cervical cancer in women. The Pap test is an important part of regular women’s health visits because it can help with early detection of cervical cancer. Detecting cervical cancer early increases the likelihood of effectively treating it. Pap tests can also detect changes in cervical cells due to certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Detecting these abnormal cells early may prevent the development of cancer down the line.
While many women believe they need to see a gynecologist or OB/GYN for women’s health issues and services like the Pap test, One Medical’s primary care providers are trained to handle most women’s health matters. In addition to diagnosing and treating yeast infections, urinary tract infections, sexual health, and more, our doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can often administer a Pap test as part of a regular visit and help guide any decisions or treatment plans that arise around women’s health issues. In fact, having a primary care provider (PCP) perform the Pap test can be a big benefit because they already have in-depth knowledge of your overall health and history. Additionally, receiving women’s health services like Pap tests from a PCP can cut down medical costs and reduce the need for specialist copays.
The Pap test itself is simple and quick and can be performed in a few minutes during a One Medical appointment. During the test, an instrument called a speculum is gently inserted into the vagina to expose the cervix. This can cause a feeling of slight pressure in the pelvic area, but is usually not painful. Then, a One Medical provider takes samples of the cervical cells using a soft brush and a flat scraping device called a spatula. The cells are then sent to a laboratory and examined. Providers then follow up with each patient after the appointment to discuss the results and address any additional steps that may be necessary.
Individuals with a cervix should have a discussion with their provider about starting cervical cancer screening at 21. Cervical cancer screening can be done with a pap test and/or with HPV testing. A pap test is a procedure that involves gathering cells from your cervix (which sits at the top of your vagina, right at the entrance to your uterus) in order to screen for cervical cancer. For individuals at average risk between the ages of 25 and 65, we recommend screening for cervical cancer with HPV (Human Papillomavirus; the main driver of cervical cancer) testing every five years.The frequency of cervical cancer screenings may change, however, depending on your test results so it’s important to work with your provider to develop a testing plan tailored to your personal health needs. If you have had normal cervical cancer screenings the majority of your life, your provider will have a discussion with you about stopping screening around age 65.