Making PAP a Priority

Taking ownership of your health is a key aspect of self-empowerment and wellness. This sense of ownership carries responsibility and accountability, including regular check-ups with your doctor and keeping up to date on health screenings, such as the Pap test.

The Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) is the examination of cervical cells to detect abnormalities that could lead to cancer. With over 12,000 new diagnoses each year, cervical cancer remains a critical issue of women’s health. Early detection is essential to prevention, and the Pap test has been proven the most effective protection for women against cervical cancer.

What does the Pap test entail? At the doctor’s office, you lie on your back with your feet in the stirrups at the end of the table. Typically, you’ll feel warmth from the doctor’s examination lamp. The doctor will insert a speculum, which is a tool (often metal or plastic) that widens the vaginal walls, allowing visual inspection and access to the cervix. Then, the doctor will insert a swab to collect cell samples that will be placed in a liquid container and sent to a lab for examination. Results are typically returned within less than a week.

Myth: Pap tests are unnecessary for women without a family history of cervical cancer.

Truth: The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have no family history of it.

Myth: Women should douche before their Pap test.

Truth: Douching can trigger inaccurate test results by masking abnormalities. In fact, douching is not recommended at all, as it may actually increase the risk of certain infections.

Myth: Pap tests are painful.

Truth: During the test, you might feel pressure or pinching but certainly no substantial pain.

Yes, it’s a slightly uncomfortable test. However, there is good news! The test generally only takes a couple of minutes and is covered at zero cost by most health insurance plans; for those who are uninsured, there are providers with highly affordable, accessible options.

Be a Rose facilitates workshops at HQThe Hispanic Center of West Michigan, refugee centers, as well as partner group homes and schools. These workshops provide a safe and comfortable space in which Be a Rose founder Christine Mwangi educates women and answers their questions about feminine health and hygiene. Further, Christine helps participants connect with local providers, emphasizing the importance of establishing a relationship with an OB/GYN and scheduling regular check-ups to maintain wellness. 

To learn more about Pap tests and cervical cancer prevention, we encourage you to check out the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. See VeryWell for a nationwide list of providers offering free or low-cost screenings.

Here are several providers within the Grand Rapids community that offer affordable care, particularly for those who are uninsured:

Cherry Health                                                              (616) 965-8308

Exalta Health                                                               (616) 475-8446

Planned Parenthood                                                     (616) 459-3101              

Interested in supporting not only your own health but the health of your community? Visit the websites linked to each listed provider to learn about the ways you can support these organizations through donations and/or volunteerism.  

Remember, no one has control over your health and body but you, so treat yourself with kindness and responsibility. Be a Rose encourages you to own your health and schedule your Pap test today!

By: Aanee Nichols