It’s not easy to sit in a physician’s office with your legs up on the feet holder and have your doctor examine your business. But it’s something you have to do. Around the ages of 21 to 25, women get their first pap smear, which is when a doctor checks for any abnormal cells or cervical cancers. Pap smears save thousands of women from developing cancer and screen for HPV; the benefits are clear. However, besides it being painful, no one tells you about the chances of getting abnormal pap smear results and the heart-pounding anxiety that comes with it. Today I will.
I got my first pap smear a year ago when I was 24, and needless to say, I was super nervous and uncomfortable, but it was bearable. The doctor took a swap of my cervix, and it wasn’t painful at all (just uncomfortable), and before I knew it, I was done and out of there. However, a few weeks later I was about to go into a midterm and I got a call from my doctor; she couldn’t give me any answers but just said that she wanted to meet with me about my test results. To say I was having an anxiety attack is an understatement. I am super careful of who I sleep with and always use protection. I even got the HPV shot, so it came as a total shock that I would get called back in to discuss my results.
Little did I know that abnormal pap smears are common. Rosewell park cancer states, “3 million women with abnormal Pap tests each year, less than 1% (13,240 cases) will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.” Also, the majority of women will have at least one abnormal pap smear in their lifetime. Many things could make a pap smear abnormal that aren’t HPV or cancer-related, but at the time, I didn’t know that. I was treating it like a death sentence.
So when I went in.
I was reassured it wasn’t cancer. But I did have abnormal cells and was told it was worth waiting a year, until I was 25, to do a follow-up test. For me, the chance of it being HPV was slim, and there was no chance of it being cancer. Many things can cause an abnormal pap: age (going too young), some medication, and even some yeast and bacterial infections. If anything, there are quite a few diseases out there that can harm women, and we should be fully aware and check in with our bodies regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. We want to live life to our full potentials, and we owe it to ourselves and our bodies to take care of ourselves.