Do you know the difference between a Pap smear and a pelvic exam? Many women think they are the same thing, but there are important differences between the two.
What’s a Pap smear?
A Pap smear, or Pap test is a medical screening used to detect any changes in cells on the cervix. The test looks for changes that could indicate cancer of the cervix or any cervical abnormalities that might lead to cancer.
Your doctor performs the screening by using a small plastic spatula and brush to collect cells from the cervix. Your physician will check internal organs and will take a small sample of cells to examine for abnormalities. The cells are then examined under a microscope in a laboratory.
What is a Pelvic Exam?
During a pelvic exam, your physician will check for signs of illness or abnormalities. Your doctor looks for medical problems in your pelvis, vagina, and the pelvic floor. He or she will examine your external genitalia, vagina, and pelvic organs such as the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder.
All women should see a doctor every year for a well-woman visit. However, many women do not need a pelvic exam every year. When they do need one, it usually takes place as part of an annual well-woman visit with their physician.
During your well-woman visit, discuss whether you need a pelvic exam and whether and when a Pap test would be appropriate for you. Of course, don't wait for your yearly exam if you have any issues with bladder function, sexual function, or any concerns.
Talk to your doctor about the best pelvic exam and cervical cancer screening schedule for you based on your health and family history. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screening if you have certain health indications, such as a history of cervical cancer or a weakened immune system. Our doctors are here for you.