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What’s Up Down There? Understanding Your Annual Exam

By August 26, 2010 - 11:59am

Article provided by QIAGEN

Gynecological exams rank right up there with dentist appointments for many women.

Have you ever wondered though what really goes on “down there” during the pelvic exam at your annual gynecologic visit? While most of us are counting down the seconds until it’s over, your doctor is performing important, and potentially life-saving exams.

To check for abnormal cell growth, the doctor performs a Pap test to collect cell samples from your cervix. The cervix sits at the top end of your vagina, connecting the vagina with the uterus, and is shaped much like a bagel.

During a Pap, the doctor uses a small brush and collects cells inside the cervix.

Next, your doctor will use a spatula-shaped tool to scrape cells from the outside of the cervix. Both samples are viewed under a microscope to check for abnormal growth.

The good news is that with the same cell sample collected during your Pap test, doctors can also check for the virus that is the primary cause of cervical cancer, the human papillomavirus, or HPV. When an HPV test is run, the cell sample is sent to a lab where it is analyzed for the presence of high-risk types of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer. If high-risk HPV is found, your doctor can then put appropriate monitoring and follow-up in place to make sure cervical disease or cervical cancer never have the chance to develop! And if both test results come back normal, you may not need to repeat them for up to three years (though be sure see your doctor each year for your annual check-ups.)

Visit www.theHPVtest.com to learn more.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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