When it comes to reproductive health, some procedures are only necessary after you’ve become sexually active. However, certain risk factors can require you to have a Pap smear regardless of your sexual history. That begs the question: When should women have their first Pap smear, and why is it important that they get it?
At Innovative Care Medicine, in Corona, California, Pap smears are a routine procedure. Dr. Ohri believes your first Pap test should be fully discussed in advance and handled compassionately. He and our staff want you to be comfortable during the entire experience.
The importance of Pap smears
Pap tests are primarily intended to screen for cervical cancer. Dr. Ohri can check you for the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells by taking a small sample from your cervix.
During the procedure, you remove your clothing below the waist and lie on your back on a cushioned table. You’re covered with a small sheet while you place your feet in stirrups, and a lubricated speculum is inserted into your vagina to hold open your vulva and provide access to your cervix. Dr. Ohri collects the cervical cell sample with a swab, and that’s it.
You might feel some pressure while the sample is being collected, and some women experience minor cramping or a bit of vaginal blood. If pain or bleeding continues longer than a day or two, call our office. While Pap smears can be somewhat awkward or uncomfortable, they’re the simplest and most accurate way to screen for cervical cancer.
When should I have my first Pap smear?
You should begin receiving routine Pap tests when you are 21 and then repeat the test every three years after turning 21. Women who haven’t had sexual intercourse (vaginal sex) after age 21 can talk to their doctor about when a Pap smear is necessary for them.
Certain factors can put you at risk of cervical cancer regardless of your sexual activity, so it’s a good idea to have the test done anyway. Being sexually active is a concern for women because of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer, so talk to your doctor about starting Pap tests when you become sexually active, even if it’s before age 21.
In case of an abnormal Pap smear
Pap smears check the health and status of your cervix. Your doctor can order more tests if any abnormal cells are found. An abnormal test result doesn’t necessarily mean the cells are precancerous.
Some Pap smears can also include testing for HPV, which increases cancer risks. However, HPV infections don’t mean you have cancer, and many women can clear an HPV infection on their own. There is also an HPV vaccine which protects against many strains of the virus.
To book your first Pap smear, contact us online or call 951-595-4588 for an appointment.