Dr. Marianne Marchese wants to take some of the uncertainty and intimidation out of going for a Pap smear. She describes the process in a way that is clear and understandable for women and adolescent girls. She encourages them to make an appointment with their doctors to have this examination done. It is her hope that more women and adolescent girls will make this a regular practice, for the sake of their health and wellbeing.
(Transcribed from video interview)
Well the Pap smear was developed a number of years ago as a screening for cervical cancer in women and that’s the reason women are encouraged to go to the doctor every year for what’s called their annual well woman’s exam. It’s during that visit that a woman receives her annual clinical breast exam and her annual Pap smear.
The Pap smear is merely just a sampling of cells from the face of the cervix. The cervix is about the size, shape, and consistency of the tip of your nose. So imagine just taking a little stick and getting some cells off the tip of your nose, that is pretty much what a Pap smear amounts to. And then that goes off to a lab where a trained cytologist reads the cells and looks for any abnormal cellular changes.
If the Pap smear comes back abnormal, the abnormalities are graded. Is it a mild abnormality; is it a moderate abnormality; is it a severe abnormality or is it cervical cancer?
Well the new guidelines state that a woman should start receiving her first Pap smear at the age of 21. The guidelines have just recently changed for adolescent girls.
We used to say that adolescent girls would either wait until age 21 to receive their first Pap smear, unless they were sexually active at a young age, and then the guidelines state that a young girl should receive her first Pap smear three years after the onset of sexual intercourse.
So if a young girl first has sexual intercourse at age 15 she would get her first Pap smear at age 18.