When you go to your doctor for your first pap smear try not to be too nervous, embarrassed, or afraid. Pap smears are something that all women have to go through. It is not meant to be any type of punishment. Its purpose is only, to keep you healthy. Instead of dread and fear, think of it as you being kind to yourself, evidence that you are treating yourself right. Just like you take care of your hair and nails by going to the salon, think of a pap smear in the same way. After your visit, you will feel better about yourself by knowing that you are disease free and cancer free. Here is what will happen when you go for your pap and pelvic exam.
Your doctor will have you lie on your back and will place the heels of your feet in two stirrups. You will bend your legs at the knee and spread your legs as wide as possible. At this time, he or she will first look at the outside of your vagina for anything that looks like it does not belong there. The doctor will then insert a speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a metal or plastic tool that is placed into your vagina and used to hold open the walls of the vagina. The speculum allows the doctor to see the opening of the uterus, or cervix, and collect cervical samples. This will be a little uncomfortable, but most speculums are smaller than a penis, so it technically should not hurt. Most of the discomfort will come from you being tense. So relax.
The speculum will open, and you will hear a click. At this time, the doctor will take a small spatula and glide it over the surface of your cervix. A tiny brush is then placed quickly into your cervix and removed. Both the spatula and the brush are used to collect cells from your cervix. These cells are then sent to the lab to look for cancer and pre-cancer cells. So the Pap smear was designed to find cervical cancer. Next, your doctor will take a swab and collect some of your vaginal fluids to test for gonnorhea, chlamydia, & trichomonas.
You must get a pap smear every year so your doctor can continue to look for evidence of cervical cancer. Early detection is very important when it comes to cervical cancer.
After the pap smear has been completed and Pelvic Exam swabs have been gathered, your doctor will do a two-handed pelvic exam. One or two gloved-fingers will be inserted into your vagina and the other hand will press on your stomach area. When they do this, they are trying to see if you have any pain, if your uterus is normal size, if your ovaries are normal, or if there are any lumps or masses present. You should get a breast exam every year if you are under age 39, and every year if you are older than 40. Breast exams should be done at the same time you get your pap smear.
During your breast exam, your doctor will check for any lumps, irregularities, dimpling, or discharge. But you must help your doctor detect anything that does not seem right with your breasts. So, every month, right after your period, while you are in the shower, you should do your own breast exam. Ask your doctor to show you how. Let your doctor know if anyone in your family has had breast cancer, and this will help your doctor determine if you need to have any extra tests. Remember, not all lumps are cancer. Normal breasts can have lumps too. If you have tenderness and lumpiness in both breasts that gets better after your menstrual cycle, this is most likely normal.
However, if you ever find anything that does not feel quite right, you should go to your doctor to make sure you do not have breast cancer. Warning signs that you should look for are: bleeding from the nipple, a lump that does not go away, an orange peel appearance of the skin on your breast, dimpling of the skin on your breast, itching, and or pain.
After the age of forty, every woman should have a yearly mammogram. If you live in a high-risk part of the country, or have a strong family history of breast cancer, mammograms may be initiated at thirty-five. A mammogram is just a fancy word for an X-Ray of the breasts. Talk to your doctor about to find out at what age you should begin to get mammograms.
During your yearly visit is the perfect time to request that your doctor test you for HIV. Know your status.