In this concluding part of the article, Glorya Gabriel focuses on the necessary steps to take as you get ready to go for your examination:
… I was made to understand that part of women’s health and how much of a serious matter it is, as well as the exact categories of women who should get a Pap smear Test done, if optimal health is in view.
1. Schedule Your Appointment for a Week after Your Period ends. It is important to try to avoid scheduling your Pap Smear for when you will be menstruating, so aim for a week after your last menses. The test can be done when you are on your period, but to get the best results, it is important to try to avoid this.
2. Avoid Douching in The Days Before Your Exam. For clarity purpose, douching simply means the use of a device in introducing a stream of water into parts of the body, like the vagina for medical or hygienic reasons. Stop douching at least two to three days before your exam as it increases your risk of infection, and may obscure or wash away the abnormal cells your gynaecologist is aimed at getting. You should also avoid using any spermicidal foams or vaginal medicines two days before the test, as these can also mask abnormal cells.
3. Avoid Sex 24 Hours Before Your Exam. It is advisable to avoid sexual intercourse for at least 24 hours prior to the test as failing to abstain may interfere with the results of the test.
4. Go To The Bathroom Before Your Exam. The exam can place some pressure on your pelvis, which may make you feel like urinating. In order to avoid discomfort, relieve yourself before heading into the exam.
5. Be Prepared to Answer Questions about Your Menstruation Cycle. If you have a planner in which you mark down the start and end date of your period, bring it with you. Your doctor will ask you about your cycle, including when your last start and finish date of your period were. Your doctor will also ask you about any pain you experience during your period, whether or not you have any abnormal discharge, or pelvic pains of any sort.
6. Wear comfortable clothes that can be removed easily. Because you will have to undress to a certain degree, it is important not to wear clothes that are difficult to get in and out of. You should also consider wearing loose pants or a skirt, as the exam can cause you to feel a little discomfort when it is over.
7. Write down any questions you have before going to the doctor’s office. If you have questions for your doctor that you think of in the days before your exam, make sure to write them down so you remember to ask him or her. It is important to do this, as many people tend to forget their questions when they are nervous.
8. Feel free to ask your doctor questions, especially if this is your first pap smear test. You can ask your doctor questions before the exam, or as the exam is being performed. You can also ask your doctor to explain exactly what he or she will do, or is doing, if you are feeling particularly nervous. Ask your doctor if it is ok to have someone else in the room if you are nervous. If you are very nervous, you can ask your doctor if it is ok to bring a relative into the room with you.
9. Tell your doctor if you have had problems with pelvic examinations in the past. Your doctor wants to make this experience as comfortable and easy as possible for you, and as such, it is important to tell your doctor if you have had any experiences in the past, such as bad sexual experiences like rape, that may affect your comfort levels. Your doctor will adjust his or her practice accordingly. You should also tell your doctor if you have recently had any pain in your pelvic region.
10. Familiarise yourself with the process of the test. To prepare well for a Pap Smear Test, it is important to know how the examination will be performed. A Pap smear test usually takes a few minutes and it can be done in a doctor’s office or at a clinic.
11. Undress to your comfort level. You may be asked to undress completely or to remove your clothes from the waist down. If you are asked to undress completely, you will be given a hospital gown to put on. If you are only getting a pap smear, and not a breast exam, you will most likely only be asked to get undressed from the waist down.
12. Lie down on the examination table. You will be asked to lie down on a couch or exam table with your knees bent. Your heels will rest in stirrups at the end of the exam table. These stirrups ensure that your legs are far enough apart that the doctor can perform the test comfortably.
13. Understand what the doctor will do. The doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina; this instrument could be metallic or plastic, whichever it is, both are effective. This instrument helps to hold the vaginal walls apart so that the doctor can access the cervix. The doctor will warm the speculum so that it is at the same temperature as your body to make the exam more comfortable. The doctor will also lubricate the speculum to reduce the discomfort that you are likely to feel when it is being inserted into your vagina. The doctor will then use a scraping device that looks like a long, soft brush to take a sample of the cervical cells. The examination is not painful but you might feel a bit of discomfort when the speculum is being inserted. The patient is likely to feel some pressure on the tube pelvic region.
14. Wait for the results to come back. The samples are then taken to the laboratory; the results can take up to 14 days to be processed. Most doctors or clinics will contact the patient when the results are in so that they can be discussed. According to experts, the importance of a Pap Smear Test cannot be over emphasised, especially for those aged 21 and above and sexually active. It is therefore imperative that you make efforts to get tested today. Remember, health is wealth!
By Glorya Gabriel