It’s fun to turn 21 – you can drink legally, party, and go out. But 21 isn’t all just fun. Unfortunately, after you turn 21, you are also at a higher risk for cervical cancer. And many women dread the test for cervical cancer – the pap smear. You may have heard horror stories about the pap smear from older friends and relatives, about how much it hurts, and how uncomfortable the scraping feeling is. A lot of women are scared of this simple procedure, and there’s also not much information about them, so here are some facts about pap smears!

  1. The concept of a pap smear is actually pretty cool! A pap smear collects cells from your cervix to test for cancer!
  2. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV.
  3. Doctors will check your cell sample with a microscope, to see if you have any pre-cancer changes in your body.
  4. Pap smears are not perfect, but it can check for almost all types of abnormalities. There is a chance of a false positive, but it is very, very small. Pap smears are very specific and generally work well.
  5. Pap smears don’t hurt! First, the doctor will have you lie on your back, before inserting a speculum inside you. A speculum kind of keeps you open, allowing the doctor access to your cervix. This can be a little uncomfortable, but shouldn’t be too bad. Then, the doctor will take a swab of the entrance of your cervix, and a swab of the surface of the cervix. Some women report no pain during this part, while some say there can be a bit of discomfort. But the whole procedure is very fast, no more than a few minutes, and quite painless!
  6. Many women think you will bleed a lot after a pap smear, or have remaining pain. You shouldn’t have too much discomfort after the pap smear is over, and light spotting is normal, but women don’t have heavy bleeding after pap smears.
  7. After age 30, you don’t have to get a pap smear every year. Your doctor will probably recommend one every 5 years, just to make sure everything’s fine!
  8. Pap smears do not take away your virginity. It’s simply a swab of your cervix.

It can be easy to avoid your pap smear appointment because you’re nervous, but it’s really not that bad, and tests for something super important. Women are at risk for cervical cancer, and as a responsible individual, you want to make sure you get tested annually! Cervical cancer can be caught and treated really easily if you take your pap smears seriously. Ask your gynecologist for more information next time, so you can be more aware of your body.