What should I know before an exam?
Don’t put anything in the vagina for 48 hours before the exam (contraceptive jellies/foams (spermicides), douching, sex)
Pap tests are not recommended during your period. A mid-cycle test is best.
You will be asked the date of when your last menstrual period (lnmp) began.
Who is in the room during exams?
You are welcome to bring a friend, partner or parent for any part of your exam. We have both male and female doctors; male doctors have trained female assistants in the room during exams.
Medical and sexual history
The doctor will need to assess your sexually transmitted infection risks, sexual health, and risk factors for any birth control you are using, and may ask you about:
- your sexual history
- family medical history
- existing medical conditions or medication
- birth control you are using (if applicable)
The doctor will also take your blood pressure and listen to your heart.
Pelvic exam (internal exam) including a pap exam
A pelvic exam is an internal exam intended to ensure that your sexual and reproductive organs (including labia, vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries) are healthy and normal. Usually, a pelvic exam includes screening for cervical cancer (Pap test) as well as sexually transmitted and vaginal infections.
You will have privacy while you get undressed from the waist down. The doctor will ask you to lie on the exam table and cover yourself with a paper drape and put your legs up in the foot rests at the bottom of the table. The Doctor or nurse will return to the room when you’re ready to proceed with the exam.
Taking deep breathes and letting your knees flop wide apart can help relax your muscles and make the exam more comfortable.
The pelvic exam takes about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Wearing gloves, the doctor/nurse will first look at and touch your outer vulva area to check for infection or sores.
- Next, the doctor/nurse will gently insert a plastic speculum (a special tool used to hold your vagina open) for the internal exam. It may feel uncomfortable at first but it won’t be painful.
- The doctor/nurse will use a wooden Pap stick (like a small tongue depressor) to collect some cells for the Pap test, which checks for early cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer.
- The doctor/nurse will use a swab (like a Q-tip) and collect some cells for chlamydia and gonorrhea tests (all ISHS clinics include these tests, but it is not standard everywhere).
- The doctor/nurse will then gently remove the speculum and throw it away.
- The doctor/nurse will insert two gloved fingers into your vagina and with the other hand will press down on your abdomen to check your ovaries and uterus, to make sure they are a normal size and that you are not in any pain or discomfort. This is called a bimanual exam.
That’s it! The doctor/nurse and assistant will leave the room while you get dressed.
The results of your exam and infection tests will be kept in your file. We recommend scheduling a follow up appointment for 8 weeks after the test was performed to review your results.
If you have a cervix, BC Cancer Agency recommends that you should start having annual Pap tests at age 21 or approx. 3 years after first sexual contact with any gender, whichever occurs first. You should continue with PAP testing even if you don’t have sex anymore.
Full infection screening on request
We recommend that everyone have a complete screening for sexually transmitted infections with your annual exam, unless you decline based on low risk. We will include the necessary swabs and blood tests if you ask.
Please note: If you get blood tests, we require you to book a followup appointment to get your results. We will not give out test results over the phone.
You will have time to ask the doctor questions if you would like. You may wish to write down questions ahead of time so you don’t forget. You are always welcome to book another appointment if you have additional questions.