What is a vaginal speculum?
A vaginal speculum is a main duck-bill shaped tool which a doctor uses during a pelvic examination. The doctor inserts the speculum inside the vagina to hold open the vaginal walls during the examination. This device helps in letting the doctor see inside the hollow cavity of the vagina for diagnosis purposes of infections. A vaginal speculum can be made up of metal or plastic material and is reusable after sterilization. Further, its size also varies and a doctor uses an appropriate size as per the patient’s age and vaginal length and width.
What you must expect during any pelvic exam?
A pelvic exam helps your doctor to analyze your reproductive system’s health and condition. It helps in diagnosing any infections or problems. Sometimes pelvic exams are done with other exams like abdominal, back, and breast exams etc. It normally takes a few minutes for the pelvic exam and it is done with complete privacy for the comfort of the patient. The doctor first observes the outside of the vagina for any signs or symptoms:
- Irritation or itching etc.
Then, the doctor goes for an internal exam using a speculum. During this, the entire vaginal walls and cervix are examined to look for any problems which might be causing any trouble. Slight lubrication or warming of the speculum is also done at times for the comfort of the patient. To avoid resistance during insertion of a speculum.
Further, to check any overgrowth in or around uterus and ovaries during examination one hand, used to press over the abdomen while the fingers of other are already in the vagina. By this way, any tenderness of the pelvic region, analyzed for its cause and further tests can be, done for the same to confirm a diagnosis.
What is a Pap smear test and why is it so common?
A Pap smear test, done to check for any abnormal cell growth inside the cervix. If not diagnosed on time or treated within time this abnormal cell growth can also lead to cancer. During a pap smear test, the doctor will collect a swab of sample cells from the cervix and it is further, sent for testing. This a very quick test with no pain; however, a little discomfort might appear to a patient at times. It is very important to get this test, done atlas every three years and prior if any pain or discomfort appear in between. For women of age 21 to 65 this test is a must every three years, however, for ages 30 to 65 there is also another option of HPV test which can be, done every five years. Although it is best to get both the tests, done.
It usually takes about one to three weeks for pap smear results. The results can be normal or abnormal and unclear sometimes. Normal test results indicate no overgrowth of cells, however, abnormal results indicate something is not right but it does not directly indicates any cancer. Further, testing necessary for a proper diagnosis and treatment. In such cases, the doctor either recommends additional tests or re-test of pap smear after a month or both.
Some signs and causes for which a pap smear is a must and will certainly lead to abnormal results include:
- A yeast infection or any other sort of vaginal infections
- A benign cell overgrowth
- A cancerous cell overgrowth
- Hormonal changes especially during pregnancy
- Immune system issues
- HPV which is the most common cause
Few causes which can interfere with pap smear results, even if done or used 48 hours prior. It includes:
- Sexual intercourse few hours prior test
- Spermicides or any birth control pills
- Vaginal lubricants, tampons, and vaginal douches etc.
Treatment options post pap smear results come out to be abnormal
In most of the scenarios, abnormal pap smear test results are because of cell changes caused by HPV or human papilloma virus. It’s one of the common sexually, transmitted infection and further, it has a linkup with cervical cancer as well. HPV might cause a mild, moderate, and severe change in the cervical cells. To analyze the situation better your doctor might run a few more tests to confirm the presence of cancer. With a final HPV presence and staging analysis of cancer or pre-cancer treatment, line can be, decided by the, specialized doctor.
As per the stage of cervical cancer which involves stage I, II, III or IVA, and IVB, one amongst these can be, chosen as a line of treatment: external radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and surgery; or even surgery, followed by one or both radiations as per the need of the patient. Chemotherapy along with radiation is also, used in stages II and above of cervical cancer for better and effective results. Although, surgeries, the only option in rare case scenarios when cancer re-occurs after a successful radiation therapy. Higher-stage cervical cancers, hard to treat with their attached high risk of recurring. So to avoid such, complicated scenarios its always must to ensure regular checkups for early diagnosis and better treatment of any type of cancers.
A Pap smear test which, done with the help of vaginal speculum is the best method for early diagnosis of cervical cancer or pre-cancer state. In the recent research, it shows that awareness about pap smear has, in turn, saved many lives and the death rate due to cervical cancer has, decreased by 50 percent. So it is never too late to get Pap smear test, done you must also go for it now.
Vaginal speculum can be little uncomfortable to deal with but it does not really cause pain. It helps in a pelvic exam and helps in the diagnosis of several sexually, transmitted infections and other infections. So do not delay any further and get a Pap Smear Test, done now.