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How Is The Pap Test Different From The Pelvic Exam?

Who needs a pap test and pelvic exam? And are these two synonymous? Both are critical and necessary for women’s health to start up. And yes, they are different.   

A pelvic exam helps check the health of a woman’s pelvis and vagina. And a woman may get a pap smear at urgent care to look if any abnormal cells lead to cervical cancer.

Now that you know these two tests are different let’s expound on them for better understanding.

A Pelvic Exam

It’s a part of a woman’s routine check-up. And gynecologists recommend every woman get their first pelvic exam at 21. Then, they can have regular tests to check if there are health risks in their female organs. These include the vagina, ovaries, uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. 

  • Uterus (the womb).
  • Cervix (vagina’s opening to the uterus).
  • Vagina (a canal connecting the cervix and uterus).
  • Fallopian tubes (these are tubes carrying eggs to the womb).
  • Ovaries (these are glands producing eggs).
  • Bladder (a hollow organ that stores urine).
  • Rectum (it’s a chamber connecting the colon to the anus).

During this routine check-up, your doctor will examine the exterior and interior of your vagina. Similar to a pap test, the internal examination will involve a speculum. But your GYN/OB may also perform a bimanual test which consists in inserting two fingers in the vagina and pressing down the belly to check if there is abnormal bleeding or discharge. Other things that may prompt a GYN to perform this test include:

  • A woman with pelvic pain or painful sex.
  • Unusual bleeding or vaginal discharge
  • Any concern about STIs or STDs.
  • Having a family history of ovarian or cervical cancer.
  • Pregnant women 

Some women experiencing menstruation problems such as heavy bleeding or pelvic pain may have pelvic exams earlier than others. 

After three regular pelvic exams, the doctor recommends having the test every three years for sexually active women. 

Pelvic Exam Procedure

You don’t need significant preparations for a pelvic exam or a pap smear at urgent care. However, you may need to schedule this test when you’re not in your menses. It would be better to come with an empty bladder.

Your doctor will have you lie on a table as you do in a pap smear. You’ll get the support of a stirrup for easy access. He will then check your vulva to see if you have any signs of irritation or other symptoms such as redness, swelling, sores, or other abnormalities.

Try to relax as you are on the table for examination as this will be a quick and straightforward process, which should reduce any discomfort. And will proceed to check if your uterus and ovaries are in the required size. At this point, a doctor may note unusual growths or tenderness.

Pap Smear

A woman should have a pap smear test that screens for cancer cells before the symptoms show. That’s why it’s a necessary procedure for every woman from 21 years and above. It checks for cervical cancer and helps to detect cells that can potentially change later into cancer. 

Pap Smear Procedure

First, your GYN will need to access your cervix. So, he’ll ask you to lie down on an examination table, putting your legs up in a stirrup. A doctor will then use a speculum that will widen the vaginal canal so he can reach some loose cells from the cervix opening. And he will take a sample cell for testing in the laboratory to see if there are abnormalities indicating cancer or risk of developing cancer. 

You can schedule more tests every three years from your first pap test if you’re in your 20s. But for, women in their 30s can have a pap smear at urgent care or any other convenient place every five years. A doctor may request frequent tests if he finds an abnormality from the test results. 

So, what’s the difference between a pap test and a pelvic exam? When you experience unusual symptoms related to your reproductive health, you’re likely to get a pelvic exam to diagnose your condition. Can you get a pap smear at urgent care and a pelvic test? Yes, a health care provider or gynecologist can also perform a pap smear during a pelvic exam.  

Both pelvic and pap tests are critical for your health and wellness. At least you know and understand the purpose of each of these tests as you’re now enlightened. 

Since these tests can cause anxiety, find a doctor who can make you feel comfortable in a conducive environment. 


Gynecologists can do pelvic exam check-ups and pap smear tests for their patients. And can you get a pap smear at urgent care and a pelvic exam? Yes, you can. You can find qualified healthcare providers who can perform gynecological healthcare. And now you know the difference between the two and why you need them both. Right? So, please find your nearest urgent care and make an appointment today. 


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