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I Had A Pap Test Today

by Meghann on February 13, 2013

Remember last week when I said this blog was TMI?

Well, here’s another one for you: I had a pap test today.


Feel free to add “the inside of a gyno exam room” to things you never thought you’d see on this blog.

I’m only telling you this because a friend from high school recently lost her battle with cervical cancer. She was strong and fought hard, but some battles are just too big, even for the best of us. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I ran into Amber when I was home for my sister’s wedding over the summer and she was typical Amber, all smiles and full of life. I hadn’t seen her in years and, at the time, I didn’t know what she was going through. She told me about her niece and nephew and how she was hoping to finish school in the fall. It was months later when she was campaigning on Facebook about how important it is for women to keep up with their regular pap tests, that I realized something was up.

With cervical cancer, early detection is key, which is why regular pap tests are so important. As much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t been the best at keeping up with my exams the last few years. Amber’s passing was the slap in the face I needed to woman up and make my appointment. Yes, this particular doctor’s visit isn’t the best (want to watch your husband/boyfriend’s face take on a look of shock? explain to them exactly what goes on at the these annual exams), but it could be the key to saving your life.

So here I am, carrying on Amber’s final campaign. Ladies, please remember to keep up with your regular pap tests. Do it for Amber.


Source: Fight Like a Girl

Edited to add:

If you want more information about the US recommendations for Pap tests, check out this site:

When was your last pap test?

1 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 13, 2013 at 9:42 pm

When I saw the title of this post, I almost passed without stopping to read (honestly), but I’m glad I read on. I’ve been putting mine off but mostly because I had surgery last year to remove cysts & polyps and then was put through a kind of menopause (at 25) for endometriosis. I know how important it is, I just feel like I got my fair share last year and have been putting it off and putting it off. Thanks for the reminder that I really need to go back. And I’m so sorry for friend. 🙁
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2 JoL February 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Great reminder for everyone! The recommendation for women (21-65), regardless of sexual activity, is once every three years for a pap smear.

If you want more information about the US recommendations for Pap tests, check out this site:

3 Meghann February 13, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Thanks, I’ll add the link to the post.

4 jessica February 13, 2013 at 9:45 pm

it’s awful that people assume, and that men react, in a disgusted way when things like this are spoken of. but if it is not spoken of, or done so in a way that promotes the squeamish feeling, then the feeling will never stop. society allows the disgust to continue on by pushing female health to the shhhh dont talk about it category.

5 Meghann February 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

My husband asked because he honestly had no idea what went on during the exams. His eyes grew large as I walked him through every detail. You’re right – no one ever talks about women’s exams in the open, so most men are completely unaware. However, I think a lot of men are curious and would like to learn in a frank and open discussion.

6 Jen February 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

I think this description of Derek’s reaction would have been better than in your post, where you say he was horrified. What is so horrifying about a Pap Smear? And is calling it “horrifying” going to encourage women to have it done?

I do understand and appreciate your point, as explained by your comment. I just wish you’d have gone that route originally. My husband isn’t sympathetic or horrified. He’s glad I take care of my health. And now that I’ve had a baby, a Pap Smear is nothing. 🙂

7 Marie February 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

Yes! They should be THANKING us, not reacting in horror or disgust. If my partner reacted that way, I’d DTMFA.
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8 Sara February 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Exactly, Jen. There is nothing horrifying about a quick feel with 2 fingers (let’s be honest, we’ve all probably done it ourselves for fun) and a quick Q-Tip probe.
Sara recently posted..Liquid Lacquer: Flaming Flamingo

9 Hillary February 14, 2013 at 7:23 am

I was just coming here to say the same thing, Jessica and Meghann. My fiance isn’t disgusted or squeamish when I talk to him about this stuff; he’s curious and, at the very least, sympathetic of the experience. I think it’s important to have these discussions, and to make EVERYONE (not just men! women, too!) more aware of the “nitty gritty.” The less of a stigma attached to women’s health issues, the better for all of us.
Hillary recently posted..Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Brittle Cookies

10 JennyBethW February 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Agreed completely with all of those talking about male reactions. It’s called taking care of your body and it goes both ways- men don’t have a great exam experience at times, either. As I am always glad that my male partner takes care of his health, I expect him to be mature enough to appreciate that I take care of mine.
JennyBethW recently posted..Colorshock- on style.

11 Sara@RunningInPinkProject February 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Sorry to hear about your friend. Sometimes its difficulty to fit something so unpleasant in the schedule but its def important!
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12 Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run February 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Mine was last month. 🙂 That’s the beauty of being on BC…they make you get it every year. So, I never miss one. Good time to get tested for HPV too.

13 meghan February 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm

This is definitely so so important. When I went a few years ago to get mine, that’s when they found out I had fibroids. I’m so thankful that I made going a regular thing and that they found the fibroids and I got them taken care of this past summer (and hopefully for good). Keeping up to date on all doctors is so important. Thanks for the reminder!
meghan recently posted..Speed work before a Brooks Running and FITniche Event!

14 Kristy @Kristy's Health Revolution February 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I have to have pap tests every 6 months after an abnormal pap a year ago. This was after not having a pap for a few years. I had to have pre-cancerous cells removed and luckily they have all been normal since. I will never miss a regular pap again.
Kristy @Kristy’s Health Revolution recently posted..Fitness Confidence

15 Lauren @ Eat Like An Elephant February 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

This is SUCH an important message! I have my pap test every year at my annual exam. It’s marked on my calendar and I go every August.

16 Diana February 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I just realized today that it’s been 1 1/2 years since my last pap! Need to find a doc in my new town. Thanks for posting. Sorry about your friend, very sad.

17 Kristin @ FoodFash February 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I have had a handful of friends go through the early stage of that nightmare and thankfully they caught it in time (early detection really is key).
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18 Amanda February 13, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I had a similar kick in the behind last year and it got me to my doctor’s office after putting it off for several years. My appointment for this year is scheduled for next month. I have to say thank you for spreading the message!
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19 Liz February 13, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I was so sad when I heard about Amber. The advantage of being on the Pill is the required annual pap smears–but after my mom’s youngest sister died at 39 of cervical cancer, I think I would be pretty motivated to get mine done annually anyway. Thanks for spreading the word.
Liz recently posted..Starburst and Triple Zip Pouch

20 Courtney February 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Essentially all cervical cancers are caused by HPV so get vaccinated!

21 caitie February 14, 2013 at 7:35 am

agreed. but i got the vaccine and my pap just came back abnormal for HPV. (there are so many types of HPV, the vaccine only helps prevent some).

GET YOUR PAP!!!!!!!!!

22 The Many Thoughts of a Reader February 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Cancer sucks.
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23 Amanda February 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I woman-ed up a few months ago. It’s surprisingly quick and really not that bad. Mine hurt….. Yeah. Wasn’t thrilled with that part.

24 Rachel Wilkerson February 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Meghann, I love a lot of your “TMI” posts, particularly ones that deal with women’s health issues (since that’s…kind of what this blog is about!) but I have a small request: please stop apologizing for them or putting up disclaimers at the beginning! I feel like if adult women (or men!) need that much warning before you can talk about having a heavy period or a Pap smear, that’s their problem. I think that talking about this stuff openly is part of why women sometimes neglect their sexual health; there’s way too much shame involved. So please keep writing about it and please don’t be sorry for it!
Rachel Wilkerson recently posted..Make it: Mini-quiche

25 jessica February 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm


26 Rachel Wilkerson February 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm

*NOT talking about this stuff openly is the problem is what I meant to say
Rachel Wilkerson recently posted..Make it: Mini-quiche

27 Tracy Schwartz February 13, 2013 at 10:40 pm

totally agree
Tracy Schwartz recently posted..Sunday Night

28 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution February 14, 2013 at 9:30 am


29 Lea Peabody February 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm

RIP Amber, in our hearts. Haven’t seen her in years but found out she passed from cervical cancer and am heart broken. I continually rally for yearly Pap smears because I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 but early detection saved me with some surgery. My heart goes out to her and her family.

30 Krystle February 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Ive know Amber for about 5 years. Amber was a beautiful person inside and out! I cant believe how small of a world we all live in, as I found your blog over a year ago while searching for ‘unique wedding venues’ in the Brevard/Titusville area, and here you are, spreading Ambers message! I hope your honesty and openess in your blog will motivate more woman to be aware of their bodies and the importance of those annoying, but necessary, gyno visit. And without the shame that is often involved with the topic of all this dealing with womans sexual health and issues. Thank you for putting it all out there, i love your TMI posts, its what were all thinking but never talk about!

31 Steph February 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm

So sorry about your friend. It’s such a scary disease, but luckily can be caught early. I agree, these topics need to be discussed and kudos to you for putting it out there. I posted a similar post back in the summer when I had my first well woman check after my mom’s passing. I had been terrified of getting a breast exam, fearing I too would get breast cancer and go through what my mom experienced. It was a scary visit, but I had some honest conversations with my gyno about preventative measures and what I can do to start as early as possible with mammograms. I wrote about it here

We can’t keep our eyes closed to all of this, and must remember that it can happen to anyone, no matter the age. Keep up these TMI posts. They’re 100% necessary!
Steph recently posted..Judy’s Tales: You’ve got mail!

32 Meghann February 14, 2013 at 6:59 am

Thank you for sharing that post, Steph. I’m so sorry about your loss.

33 Beth @ Running with the Sunrise February 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Such an important thing to do! Paps aren’t the most fun thing to do, but it’s a simple test that can save your life. It’s a no-brainer.
Beth @ Running with the Sunrise recently posted..Lovely Day for a Run

34 Angela February 13, 2013 at 11:33 pm

what a great message for all of us! It’s not the most pleasant experience, but it is so so important!
Angela recently posted..On Being An Encourager

35 Moody Girl February 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for the TMI post – it’s such an important reminder. I had mine last week and it’s not my favorite doctor’s visit, but I know it’s important. I’m sorry to hear about your friend.
Moody Girl recently posted..OOTD: Sparkles and Stripes

36 Lesley T. February 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I’m so, so sorry to hear about your friend.

However, please don’t be too hard on yourself about missing a Pap or two: “If your Pap test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. For that reason, your doctor may tell you that you will not need another Pap test for as long as three years. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. If both test results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years to have your next Pap test. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup.” (Source: CDC)

37 Beth @ 990 Square February 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

I’m 30 (yikes, almost 31) and was told by my doc last month that I won’t need a pap for 5 years because all of mine have been normal.

And I think it’s good for men to know what happens during these tests!
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38 Anon February 14, 2013 at 12:08 am

GET YOUR PAP EVERY YEAR!!! (sorry for the all caps but this issue is a pet peeve of mine). Yes, the risks are low if you have had a normal pap but the risk is still there, especially if you are under 30. A regular pap is the ONLY way to prevent a cervical cancer death. I have a friend of the family that is a oncologist who told me about a woman in a long term committed relationship (3+ years) who developed an aggressive form of cervical cancer between her yearly exam. They only caught it in time to prevent her death because she got a yearly pap. She had only had normal pap results before cancer was detected.

The only downside to a yearly pap is discomfort. The upside? You will not die of cervical cancer and you will get a heads up if anything (cysts, etc.) is not going okay down there.

39 RunningThoughts February 14, 2013 at 1:52 am

I’m actually really ashamed to admit that it’s been years since I’ve had a Pap test and I just wanted to say that thanks to this post I have just called my doctor and made an appointment for one next week 🙂 Thanks for putting the spotlight on what is a hugely important, and often ignored, issue for us ladies. And wish me luck for next week haha!

40 Liz February 14, 2013 at 3:23 am

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I just had on in January when I was in the states. I got the all clear and the thumbs up. I actually have not had one for about 2 years. So it was much needed. I also have a post on my blog in draft about this very same thing.
Liz recently posted..FD243 – Never Let Um See You Sweat..Yeah Right, Wednesday Rewind

41 Jo February 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

Sorry for your loss. But also, oh my god, I didn’t realize young women could get cervical cancer. Thank you for sharing.

42 Ali February 14, 2013 at 8:30 am

I work in the medical field and I just want to throw this out there-I know a lot of women are fearful of yearly exams and experience anxiety over it and this part of the reason they don’t schedule them. If this is the case, please let your medical provider know because you can be prescribed a light sedative before the exam to make it a more pleasant experience.
I know many, many women who have passed away from cervical cancer so I advocate a yearly exam. Providers understand that it is difficult for a lot of women to make the trip to the gynecologist so if you let them know, the experience is generally much easier to handle.

43 Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed February 14, 2013 at 8:32 am

I get mine done every year because of my BC, but every year I hype it up to be this awful experience… and then I go and it’s over before I know it! I need to stop making it such a big deal.
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44 Mica February 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

I don’t comment very often, but I wanted to thank you for writing this. It’s a really powerful and important message to encourage women to be proactive about caring for their health.
Mica recently posted..Will you marry us?

45 Natalie @ Free Range Human February 14, 2013 at 9:48 am

I’m so so sorry about your friend. Anytime I read about any kind of cancer, it breaks my heart. It’s a disease that has taken far too much from far too many. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago. Thankfully, it was caught early, and she is in excellent health today. Since then I have had 5 aunts that have gone through it, and just last week I lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer. ANYTHING that can be done to help prevent these types of situations should absolutely be a top priority. Early detection is key. Thanks so much for spreading the message.

On a side note, I want to echo what a lot of other have said here. I love your TMI posts. I know that many of us deal with health issues that are treated as “hush-hush” topics in the real world. Some of the best information I’ve found about some of these issues has been in the blog world. Please don’t stop writing them, and never, never apologize!
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46 Meghan @ After the Ivy League February 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

I totally agree with this, annual exams are so important to your health! I can’t imagine ever skipping mine, it’s not that bad and only takes a couple hours out of your entire year. No excuses!

47 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats February 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

Regular screenings are soooooo important. I think it’s great that you shared this. With insurance it’s a free visit too! No excuses.
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48 Jillian Kelly February 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

I got about 5 sentences into this post before I picked up my cell phone and made an appointment. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

49 Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie February 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. My insurance pays for me to get a pap smear once a year at my annual gyno visit and I feel so lucky. My Dr. told me that cervical cancer deaths have decreased so dramatically because of annual pap smears. He said it takes a long time for abnormal cells to turn into cancer and if you go to the gynecologist like you should and they see those abnormal cells they can remove them easily and quickly and boom they’re gone. Early detection is key.
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50 Casey February 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

I am so happy you posted about this. I get my Pap religiously, ever year, and always have since I started having sex. A little over a year ago, I was living in Italy, so when I came home for a month during the holidays, I made sure to add a Pap to my list of to-do’s. I scratched it off the list thinking it was the usual, but lo and behold, I got the dreaded phone call that my results were abnormal and I had to return for a colposcopy (a not-so-pleasant experience where they check your cervix for pre-cancerous or cancerous cells). As the receptionist spoke on the other end, I immediately shut down. I felt queasy and thought I was going to faint. Nothing can prepare you for scary news like that – no matter if it’s a simple pre-caution or not. Luckily, my boyfriend, my rock and my everything, was there to comfort me. We got through it together. (And he got several gray hairs as a results).

Over the next few weeks I spoke to my closest relatives and friends (yes, I unfortunately spoke about my lady garden FAR too much with anyone and everyone) – turns out abnormal results are fairly common! I spoke with a lot of women who went through the same thing and said everything worked out just fine. I drug both my boyfriend and my sister to the colposcopy (can you tell I don’t like doing things alone?) and it was, surprisingly, not as bad as I thought.

However, the worst part is waiting 2 weeks for results. I spent those weeks worrying and crying (I overreact about everything so this is no surprise) and even got comfort from Caitlin ( who had been through a similar problem. I e-mailed her about it and she responded immediately. She truly helped me through it and it was then that I really realized this community is not just about sharing recipes and workout routines. It’s about much more than that.

Thank God, everything turned out fine and it really gave me a whole new appreciation for my body, my support system, and the blog community. Thank you, Meghann, for posting this and reminding me it’s time for my 6-month check-up. I am truly happy you posted about this topic – sometimes we are hesitant to “go there” and talk about this topic, but hey, all of us ladies have one, and we gotta take care of ’em!

Please everyone, if you are able to, get yourself checked out! The test might be scary, but it’s no scarier than the possibilities of not getting the test.
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51 Sonia the Mexigarian February 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Very sorry for the loss of your friend. <3

It's scary how sneaky cancer can be. I lost my aunt to Ovarian and my grandmother was recently diagnosed to pancreatic. I stay on top of my appointments with my GYNO/OBGYN and she is very thorough, especially when I have gotten abnormal results before. Thankfully, healthy in that department. -knock on wood- no puns intended 😉

I'm glad you do such posts like this because we can't creep around such important topics like it's shameful. These reminders are for our own health and benefit and they can very well be life saving. There is never TMI in my book, but at least you post that "warning" for the squeamish.
Sonia the Mexigarian recently posted..What I Shouldn’t have Eaten Wednesday- FP Edition!

52 Melissa February 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

It’s so good to share this, no matter how TMI. Those of us in our 20s think cancer can never happen to us, but you just never know. Having regular checkups is SO important.
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53 Megan February 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I admit it’s been a few years since my last test. It’s required to get birth control but after having a baby 3 years ago and having my 6 week post baby check I havent been back. Husband went to Korea so why bother with birth control/pap test? The kids have their yearly check ups next week. While I’m there I will schedule one of my own.

54 Kimberly February 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Thank you for posting about this! It’s EXTREMELY important to get your yearly pap. I’m 26, have had all normal paps until this year where my pap revealed cancerous cells (not pre-cancerous). I was shocked. I had a LEEP procedure done which removed all the cancerous cells, but I will NEVER skip a pap again.

55 Kristen February 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I’m not going to lie- when I saw the title of this post I wondered why you wanted to tell people that. I immediately appreciated the TMI when I read your reasoning. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Too often we let these things get pushed to the back burner because life gets busy.
Thanks for the reminder to take care out ourselves!
Kristen recently posted..First WOD After Baby

56 sarahf February 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I have to have a smear test once a year. I live in Japan, so maybe it’s typical here, but I think it’s mostly connected to the pill. I loathe going, and always get really tense about it, but I’m glad they force me, it’s so important. I don’t think it’s TMI, it should be just a fact of life.
I’m sorry to hear about your friend.
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57 Amie February 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

As a med student (and woman who is proactive about her health), I really appreciated that you posted on this subject. No one enjoys getting a Pap smear but it is so important for us as woman to stay up to date and encourage other woman to do the same. I think that there was no greater way to pay tribute to your friend’s life than to spread the word of female health/regular check ups to your community. Sometimes TMI can be a very positive thing!

58 EEB(Aust) February 17, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I think fewer women would get cervix cancer if we received complete and honest information and informed consent was respected for women, as we see with prostate screening. In some countries there is no consent at all…in the States, women are “required” to have the test and completely unnecessary and potentially harmful pelvic and breast exams to get the Pill. Coercion negates all consent. Of course, legally and ethically, all cancer screening is elective and our choice.
I believe profits and misinformation have driven excess with this test in many countries causing enormous worry and harm and missing too many of these rare cancers. Countries with evidence based programs provide better protection for all women…from this cancer and from the much greater risk from false positives/excess biopsies and over-treatment. (that can damage the cervix and lead to infertility, miscarriages, premature babies, c-sections etc)

Since the 1960s the Finns have had a 6-7 pap test program, 5 yearly from 30 to 60…they have the lowest rates of cc in the world and refer far fewer women for over-treatment. The Dutch have the same program, but will shortly scrap population pap testing and move to a new program, 5 hrHPV primary triage tests offered at ages 30,35,40,50 and 60 and only the roughly 5% who are HPV+ and at risk will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. Most women are HPV- and not at risk, these women will be offered 5 or 10 yearly HPV testing to cover the risk of a new infection. The Dutch are already using a HPV self testing device for those women who prefer to test privately.
As a low risk woman my risk of cc is near zero, the risks with population pap testing were too high for me and I have always declined to test. Here in Australia there is no HPV primary or self testing, just an outdated, excessive and harmful pap testing program. Our over-treatment rates are awful, the lifetime risk of referral for colposcopy/biopsy here is 77% for a cancer with a 0.65% lifetime risk! We screen too early, too often and for far too long. Great for vested interests and their profits, but a lousy deal for women. The Dutch HPV self test device is also in Singapore and a few other countries…as women become more aware, more will travel overseas to access HPV primary testing and self testing. Women then have very important information…women no longer sexually active who are HPV- may choose to stop all further testing and the small number HPV+ will know they might benefit from a 5 yearly pap test. This is IMO, the way to tackle this rare cancer…it will save more lives and finally, take most women who are not at risk out of a lifetime of unnecessary pap testing and the high risk of over-treatment. In the States doctors tack HPV testing onto pap testing…this this unnecessary and generates the most over-treatment…HPV primary testing should stand alone. Women need to be very careful with cancer screening…IMO, there is no respect for informed consent and doing what’s best for us.
HPV Today, Edition 24, sets out the new Dutch program.

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