The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, almost 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and more than 4,300 women will die from cervical cancer.
These numbers are sobering, but they’re also a significant improvement from the past — cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death among American women.
Mortality rates have dropped more than 50% in recent decades thanks to increased use of the Pap smear, or Pap test, a procedure to collect cells to check for cervical cancer.
Here at Arlington Family Practice, we specialize in providing Pap smears for women. During the procedure, one of our team of providers places a speculum into your vagina, allowing them to brush the sides of your cervix with a sterile spatula to collect cells for testing.
Here are four ways to ensure a comfortable Pap test experience when you visit our office.
1. Prepare ahead of time
With Pap smears, a little preparation goes a long way. Take ibuprofen before you go to the appointment. That can help prevent cramping, which tends to occur during procedures like these. Ibuprofen works better than acetaminophen in this case.
Also, make sure you don’t have to go to the bathroom during the test. The feeling of needing to urinate can cause you to clench your muscles and be more uncomfortable. You don’t want to worry about peeing during a Pap smear.
2. Focus on your breathing
Practice deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques before your appointment. Abdominal breathing can help relax your body during the test. While you’re working through your breathing, mentally visit a calm place, such as the beach or the mountains.
3. Time your appointment
Don’t schedule your appointment when you’re on your period. The bleeding makes the test inaccurate, so try to time your visit when you’re in the middle of your cycle or toward the end.
Also, avoid sexual intercourse for a few days before a Pap test and don’t use any medications, lubricants, or spermicides. That ensures the smoothest procedure and best results.
4. Communicate with your doctor
Keep the lines of communication open with your doctor. Don’t stay silent if you’re nervous — this just makes things more difficult. Talk to us about what you need.
If the speculum causes discomfort, ask for a smaller size that may fit better. If you need to adjust your position to alleviate pain or discomfort, please speak up.
If you’re due for a Pap smear, our team at Arlington Family Practice can help. Call our Arlington, Massachusetts, office at 781-646-4345 or use our online scheduler to request your appointment today.