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A Pap smear or Pap test is designed to check for abnormal cells in the cervix, the opening of the uterus. Pap smears are important because they can detect cervical cancer and pre-cancerous cells early in fact, Pap smears can save your life. These tests can also find infections. Women over 21 should get a Pap smear every two years. So, what can you expect from one of these?

Pap smears are dreaded by many, especially those who have never had one done before. But you need not be worried. Pap smears are a little unpleasant, but they are over and done with quickly enough and they can be life-saving, or simply put your mind at ease for the next two years. After 30, Pap tests are generally recommended once every three years, and are often not part of regular OBGYN checkups.

And after 65, you can talk to your doctor about ceasing these tests altogether. It's in your twenties when you have the most frequent Pap smears, and you may well be dreading the first checkup. You can expect your appointment to be over and done with in about five minutes. Before you have the actual smear done, you'll have a speculum inserted into your vagina so that your doctor can reach the cervix more easily. These are generally warmed up by thoughtful gynecologists, so you won' be cold down there :).

Then, the test is done with a wooden spatula, or a small disposable swab. It won't take a minute. After you are done with the test, ask your doctor for further instructions. In some places, the patient will have to contact their healthcare team for the results of the Pap test. In other places, they will only call you if you have had a worrying result. And yet in other places, you will get a letter with the results in the mail.

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