A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a screening tool for cervical cancer.
A smear test involves collecting cervical cells by gently scraping the walls of the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina.
The cells collected during this test are sent to a laboratory and examined for potential abnormalities that could be suspicious of cancer transformation.
In addition, a Papanicolaou test can also help detect certain changes in your cervical cells that suggest you might develop cervical cancer in the future.
Detecting the presence of these abnormal cells can help inhibit the possible development and progression of cervical cancer.
This article discusses how you can prepare for a cervical smear and various dos and don’ts before a Pap smear that you should follow to get more accurate results.
What To Do Before a Pap Smear
Below is a list of DOs to follow before your Pap smear.
1) Scheduling your appointment
Where possible, try to schedule your test 10 to 14 days after having your period.
2) Start prepping 2 to 3 days before the test
The goal of the pap smear is to test for the presence of abnormal cells that could cause cervical cancer.
Having sex or using vaginal creams before the pap smear might wash away some of these abnormal cells.
Hence, it is important to refrain from using vaginal creams for two to three days before your pap test. You must also avoid vaginal sex two to three days before the test.
Also, tampons can wash away abnormal cells. Hence, if your Pap smear is planned close to your period, avoid tampons three days prior to the test.
Following these dos and don’ts before a pap smear will help improve the accuracy of the results.
3) What to do on the day of the test
It is common for women to feel anxious about pain and discomfort they may experience during a cervical smear. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to avoid the discomfort.
For example, you can talk to your doctor to know what you can expect during the Pap test. You can also take a dose of a painkiller, such as ibuprofen, on the day of the Pap smear.
You should also wear comfortable clothes and empty your bladder before the scheduled appointment time. This will help you feel at ease during the test.
4) What to do after the test
The test results usually take about 3 to 6 days. Your doctor will let you know the test results and recommend potential treatment plans if any abnormalities are detected.
During this time, you can discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns about the test results.
What To Avoid Before a Pap Test
Below is a list of DON’Ts to avoid before a Pap smear.
1) Clean the vaginal area
Avoid excessive cleaning or deep washing of the vaginal area before a Pap test, as it might wash away the cells. You may gently wash the vaginal area only from the outside.
2) Apply spray or powder
Do not apply spray or powder to deodorize the vagina, as the chemicals in it might interfere with the test results.
3) Wear tight skirts or pants
Do not wear tight skirts and pants to help the physical examination and the Pap test go faster.
4) Shave the vaginal hair
Some doctors recommend that you avoid shaving the vaginal hair for around 15 days before the Pap test. This is because it might keep your gynecologist from detecting certain conditions that can be diagnosed by looking at vaginal hair.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your requirements for your Pap smear around shaving.
5) Have sex
Abstain from sex for 2 to 3 days before a Pap smear test to make the test more effective.
6) Douche the vagina
Do not douche the vagina for 2 to 3 days before the test, as it might cause the abnormal cells to be washed away, giving you a false negative result.
Can You Have Sex Before The Smear Test?
No, you should not have sex for at least 3 days before a Pap smear.
Sex can cause irritation of the skin of the cervix and vagina. Sex can also stimulate the vagina and cervix to produce more discharge.
This might obscure the findings and give incorrect test results. Hence, you must refrain from sex before a pap smear.
Moreover, sex can cause inflammation and irritation of the vagina, even when you are using a condom, causing abnormal Pap smear results.
Hence, sex with a condom also needs to be avoided for 2 to 3 days before your Pap smear.
Do I Have to Shave Before a Cervical Screening?
Your gynecologist will perform a physical examination of the cervix and vagina before the Pap smear test. Some diseases can be diagnosed by looking at the appearance of the hair in the genital region. Hence, it is generally advisable to avoid shaving before a cervical screening.
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Can I Eat Before a Cervical Smear?
Yes, you can eat normally before a Pap smear.
Since the test involves gently scraping the cells from the vagina and cervix, eating food does not interfere with the test or its results.
However, if you are feeling anxious, you can avoid food intake for two hours before and after the test in order to avoid stomach upsets and vomiting. You can consume food once you feel at ease.
The early detection of cervical cancer with a Pap smear can improve your prognosis and improve your chances of complete recovery.
Being aware of the dos and don’ts before a pap smear will help you feel more comfortable when taking this test and increase the chances of getting accurate results.