GUIDELINES RECOMMEND WOMEN BEGIN RECEIVING THEIR FIRST PAP SMEAR AT AGE 21*. IT'S ALSO IMPORTANT TO HAVE A YEARLY PELVIC EXAM.
An annual exam is more than just checking for cervical abnormalities. Your healthcare provider (doctor, midwife, or nurse practitioner) will perform a breast exam and a pelvic exam, along with STD (sexually transmitted disease) testing if necessary. You should have your first annual exam performed at age 21. It may be recommended earlier than age 21 if you were sexually active. At your exam appointment you will be asked to undress and put on a gown. Your healthcare provider will come in and discuss your gynecological health with you before starting the physical exam. You will need to share the date of your last period and any recent sexual interactions. If you are menstruating you may need to reschedule your exam for a later date. You should take the time to discuss menstrual irregularities, STD symptoms, and ask any gynecological questions that come to mind. This will help you gain a better understanding of your reproductive health.
During the physical exam your healthcare provider will examine your pelvis and breast tissue to check for abnormalities. You will learn how to perform a self-examamination each month to check for changes in your breasts. If your healthcare provider finds any irregularities during your appointment you may need to schedule additional tests. These tests will help find the reason for the abnormalities and determine if treatment is necessary.
After the exam is over your healthcare provider will discuss the exam with you and answer any questions you have. Ask all of the questions you have in order to fully understand the information provided to you during your visit. You can also call the clinic later to talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions after your visit. On your way out of the clinic be sure to schedule your exam for next year. Please note, the results of your pap smear will not be immediately available. They results will be mailed to you within a couple of weeks after your appointment. Be sure to watch the mail for your results.
*Cervical Cancer: Statistics (2018, January). Retrieved October 3, 2018, from Cancer.net:https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/statistics