The Difference between a Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear

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Here at Nevada Surgery & Cancer Care, we work passionately to help our patients catch any abnormalities early on. We do this by recommending certain gynecologic exams often. The pelvic exam and Pap smear help us assess women’s health. Read about their differences.  

What’s the difference between a Pap smear and a pelvic exam?

types of gynecologic examsPap Smear Procedure

The first of the gynecologic exams we’ll discuss is the Pap smear. It’s a medical screening test performed to detect changes in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. Your gynecologist will use a plastic spatula-like tool to collect cells from the cervix. Then, a specialist will evaluate the cells under a microscope to look for abnormalities.

One of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests, a Pap smear can find precancerous changes in the cervix before cancer develops, or detect early cancer. It’s important for women to get regular Pap smears because gynecologic cancers are most treatable when found early. Women should start getting them at age 21 and continue getting screened every three years.

Pelvic Exam Procedure

The pelvic exam is a bit more of an in-depth procedure, and it can include a Pap smear. However, during a pelvic exam, your doctor will assess medical problems in the pelvis, vagina, and pelvic floor. Your doctor will also examine your external genitalia, pelvic organs and pelvic floor muscle strength.

Usually, a pelvic exam is part of your annual visits with your women’s health physician. However, many women may request a pelvic exam on their own if they have trouble with bladder function, sexual function or other personal concerns. Other times, your general physician may recommend one if you have any issues with abnormal vaginal discharge or pelvic pain. The pelvic exam allows gynecologists to look for illness in a woman’s body and check for infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

Keep Up with Your Gynecologic Health

When was the last time you saw your doctor for gynecologic exams? Contact us today for more information and resources on women’s health. Keeping up with your annual checkups for a pelvic exam and Pap smear is the best way to maintain a healthy body.


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