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'What happens during a pap smear and why is it important for women to get it?'

Q: I'm getting a pap smear for the first time. When I asked my friends who have already gotten it, sabi nila masakit daw. From what I heard, the doctor will insert a medical tool inside your vagina and tbh, that makes me really scared. Hesitant pa ako magpa-check but I know kailangan ko talaga siya gawin for the sake of my health. What should I expect during the test? 

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When you look and feel good, there's that slight chance where you don't really consider getting medical checkups a priority. Let's be real: When was the last time you actually saw a doctor? You've probably had those days when you just searched the internet for remedies to whatever pain or discomfort you were feeling and ended up self-medicating. (Please don't do this!) So in case you need to hear it, here's a reminder that as a responsible adult, you gotta keep tabs on your health. Know your family history, see the right doctors, and get those tests done. A pap smear is one of them. 

What is a pap smear?

Cosmopolitan reached out to OB-GYN Dr. Mae Syki-Young to know more about this medical checkup and why it's crucial for women to get it done annually. She said, "A pap smear is actually a routine test that all women who are sexually active should have it done once a year. [It] is the screening method to detect early signs of cancer in the cervix." No matter how young or old you are, once you're sexually active, there's a possibility for you to get the HPV virus, which is what causes cervical cancer. According to Dr. Syki-Young, sometimes, there are no signs and symptoms for this so early detection is key to help cure and manage it. Aside from detecting early signs of cervical cancer, a pap smear gives the OB-GYN an idea if you are at risk of getting the cancer in the first place, and it can also detect infection (ex. abnormal or smelly discharge, fishy odor in the vagina, etc.). 

Things you should know when getting a pap smear

It would be easier if you wear a skirt to your doctor's appointment.

Since the pap smear is a routine test that will examine your cervix and vagina, the OB-GYN will ask you to remove your underwear. Better to wear a skirt than pants and avoid tight-fitting clothes.

Don't be afraid. Relax.

This is actually the most important tip of all! Dr. Syki-Young shared, "It's actually not painful, but it is uncomfortable. Nakahiga ka. You have to open your legs. But the wider that you open it, [and] the more relaxed you are, the easier the procedure will be." 

A medical instrument called a speculum will be inserted into your vagina. 

This tool is needed so that your OB-GYN can visualize your cervix clearly. Heads up: It will feel a little cold!  There are several sizes of speculum: small, medium, malapadmakitid, and more. If you're young and have never been pregnant, your doctor will use the smallest one first. Dr. Syki-Young added, "If it's your first time to do the pap smear, magugulat ka talaga if somebody touches you. So once I go in, if you relax, [it will be] easier for me and for you."

A pap smear takes around two to five minutes max.

The procedure is actually very quick! It may be uncomfortable at first, but just think about how within those five minutes, it can already give your doctor so much information about your reproductive health. 

Know more about what to expect during a pap smear test by watching the video below.

Dr. Mae Syki-Young is a consultant of Makati Medical Center and St. Luke's Medical Center, Bonifacio Global Center; Fellow of Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology Society (POGS); Member of Philippine Society of Gynecologic Endoscopy (PSGE); Member of Aesthetic Gynecology Society of the Philippines (AGSPI).

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