Getting regular Pap tests and STI screening is an essential part of maintaining the health of women worldwide. In the United States alone, millions of women receive testing yearly and seek information to help ensure they’re getting the best care possible. If you’re wondering why Pap tests are so necessary, and how often you should be receiving one, we’re here to help clear that up. Pap tests, also known as Pap smears and STI testing, are available at our clinic as part of your preventative care.
What To Know About Pap Smears
A pap smear is a test performed to screen your cervix for the presence of abnormal cells that can indicate the presence of various medical conditions. The primary concern being tested for is cervical cancer, which is most often the result of infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Pap smears are not performed to test for HPV, but when abnormal cells are found, it’s a clear indication that HPV is present. While an STI test can reveal HPV, HPV is the only STI that can be revealed through the use of a Pap Smear.
How Often Should I Get An STI Test?
A regular STI test should be a normal part of anyone who has a sexually active life involving one or more non-exclusive partners. The higher the number of sexual partners, the more vital it is that you be tested regularly to ensure that you haven’t contracted an STI, and can be sure not to spread it if you do. Regardless of the number of partners you have, it can be difficult to impossible to determine that someone is carrying an STI. Below are the tests you’ll receive as part of a routine STI screening.
- Gonorrhea and Chlamydia – Those who are under the age of 25 and are sexually, or have non-exclusive partners and are over the age of 25 should receive regular testing. Gay men have been shown to test positive for this disease more frequently. In addition, people carrying HIV are more likely to test positive. Those who have experienced sexual violence should receive testing as well.
- Syphilis, Hepatitis, HIV – Everyone should receive at least one screening for HIV in their lifetimes. If you’ve had multiple partners since your last screening, you should ensure this test is part of your treatment. Our clinic encourages our patients to receive this test at least once a year.
Questions To Ask Our Women’s Health Care Providers
When you’re preparing to receive a pap smear or STI testing, you’re likely to have some questions for your provider. We suggest asking your provider the following questions.
- What Are STI Tests Like? In most cases, your test will be painless and quick. The type of tests commonly received as part of an STI test includes urine tests, blood tests, cheek swabs, or sampling sores discovered as part of a physical exam.
- What Is Involved In A Pap Smear? A Pap test will involve the insertion of a speculum in your vagina to grant your physician access to the vaginal walls and cervix. A special tool will be used to get a sample of cells from the exterior of your cervix.
- What Is Involved In Getting An HPV Test? HPV tests involve the analysis of cervical cells looking for the presence of DNA from HPV. The cells for this sample are typically taken during a pap test.