What Is A Pap Smear And Why Do I Need One?

Posted on: 26 September 2019

If you have an appointment with your OB/GYN doctor sometime soon, you may want to brace yourself for the words "you need a pap smear." Whether you have or have not had a pap smear, you may be a little unsure as to what exactly they are. 

A pap smear is a routine test that is performed regularly in order to test women for cervical cancer. Pap smears are recommended every 3 years for women who are sexually active and over the age of 21. For women who are not sexually active, most doctors would suggest they begin getting regular pap smears at the age of 25. During a pap smear, an OB/GYN holds open the vagina with a tool called a speculum. This should allow them to see the cervix of the patient. The doctor will then use a small spatula or broom to sweep across the outside and center opening of the cervix, collecting cells. These cells are then put into a watery container and sent off to a lab. The results of a pap smear can identify cancerous cells or cells that look abnormal, as abnormal cells may someday develop into cancer.

Pap smears are crucial for a number of different reasons, including but not limited to the following.


HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer. It is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause genital warts, though it often goes unnoticed because of the mild symptoms. Many people across the world have HPV, though they may not be aware of it. HPV can be detected during a pap smear, and doctors can treat it.

Early Diagnosis

Any cancer specialist will tell you that early diagnosis is the key to successfully overcoming the disease. For this reason, women should regularly undergo pap smears. Cervical cancer is highly treatable, since the cervix, or parts of it, can be removed easily. However, if the cancer is detected after it has spread it is much harder to treat, and the prognosis gets dramatically worse. Get your pap smears early on and regularly.

A Baseline

If for no other reason, it is a good idea to get a pap smear when you are young in order to get a baseline on your sexual health. Ensure that you are STI and cancer-free and then have your results printed. Someday you may need a baseline of your health, and you will be glad you have it in your records.

In conclusion, pap smears are important and should not be avoided. Talk to your medical doctor or OB/GYN in order to schedule yours today.