Pap Smears: Answers to 5 Common Questions

Pap Smears: Answers to 5 Common Questions

What exactly is a Pap smear?

We often experience women equating a vaginal exam with a Pap smear.  A Pap smear is a type of laboratory test that is performed on women as a screening test to look at the cells from the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus. The term Pap is an abbreviation of the last name of the scientist who discovered this testing procedure in the 1940’s,Georgios Nikolaou Papanikolaou.  The term smear refers to the specimen collected from the cervix that was then smeared onto a glass slide to look under the microscope.  This test is used to detect changes or abnormalities in cervical cells that have the potential to develop into cervical cancer.  The changes in the cells are caused by one or more strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

What are the guidelines for Pap smear testing? 

Previously Pap smears were routinely performed once a young woman began sexual activity and each year as part of a regular well-woman check-up. Beginning in 2012, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) and other women’s health organizations published new guidelines that recommend screening for cervical cancer in women age 21 to 65 years with a Pap smear (cytology) every 3 years or, for women age 30 to 65 years who want to lengthen the screening interval, screeningwith a combination of cytology and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing every 5 years. (

How is a Pap smear performed?

A Pap smear should not be performed during your period and you should avoid inserting anything in your vaginal canal, including sexual intercourse for 48 hours before your exam. The specimen obtained from the cervix for a Pap smear is collected during a vaginal and or pelvic exam. During this type of exam, the provider will use an instrument called a speculum that is inserted into the vaginal canal and allows the provider to visualize the cervix by holding the walls of the vaginal canal open.  There are a few different collection devices that are used to collect the cells:  a paddle, a brush or a broom.  The provider will determine what device is best to use.  It is very common for the cervix to bleed a little after the sample is collected and you might notice a little spotting of blood afterward.

How are abnormal Pap smear results dealt with?

If you have an abnormal cervical cancer screening test result, you may need further testing. Depending on the type of abnormality found and your age, different follow-up tests may be done.  For a table that shows the types of abnormalities and follow-up recommended, please click here (provide this link:

Are STI tests performed with Pap smears?

The Pap smear itself doesn’t test for any other STIs.  However, during the Pap smear, your provider may choose to collect samples of the fluid around the cervix to test for gonorrhea or chlamydia.  Some providers recommend STI testing at the time a Pap smear is performed, but if you are sexually active and they do not, it is wise for you to request it.

Routine STI screening is performed regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of an infection.  Infections are often silent and may be present even when you do not notice any symptoms.  STI screening usually means testing sites that could potentially be infected (throat, genital or anal areas) for chlamydia and gonorrhea with a swab collection; blood tests for HIV and syphilis; and, in women, checking for vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. A blood test for herpes simplex virus may be recommended, especially if there are symptoms that could indicate herpes or if you have been sexually exposed to an infected partner. Hepatitis A, B and C should also be considered if you have been at risk of infection.

Clarity Testing Clinic offers confidential sexual health medical services for men and women. The clinic provides testing and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Pap smears, pregnancy tests and limited obstetrical ultrasound.

If you think you have been exposed to an STI, make an appointment today at Clarity Testing Clinic to be tested. Our friendly medical professionals are here to help.

Sex and the Whole Person

Sex and the Whole Person

Culture portrays sex as purely physical, being all about physical pleasure. While sex is a physical act, there is a Medical Model of Health that supports that sex is indeed, not just physical, because you are not only a physical person, but a whole person.

How do we assess someone’s health? If they contract a sickness, a person goes to the Doctor and gets medicine. However, have you ever met a person free of disease who is not a very healthy person? It’s because health should not be measured or defined by just our physical needs. The Medical Model of Health states we are: physical, ethical, social, mental, and emotional.

Sex is ethical.  Sex should be a choice. In a healthy, committed relationship like marriage, sex can be very positive and enrich the intimacy and commitment of the relationship. Without a choice, actions done to a person can affect them for the rest of their life. In a violating, abusive relationship, sex against another person’s will can cause a person to question whether sex can be good.

Sex is social. How does it affect us socially? Adding sex too soon to a relationship can make a relationship awkward, change the relationship, or even end it. Or someone can earn a reputation when people find out about their sexual relationships. People can be bullied because of personal information being disclosed to the wrong people.

Sex is mental. Sex begins in the mind first. That is why pornography is so damaging to relationships because it teaches us what sex is not about: us and violence. When we train our brain that fantasy is reality, fantasy will let you down every time. How do you prevent this from happening? Guard the purity of your mind. If you want a great sexual relationship it starts with protecting false sexual images that steal from your future sexual relationships.

Sex is emotional. Sex is meant for bonding two people together in a marriage relationship. One where we don’t worry about a person leaving us tomorrow for someone else. There are proven studies that show married people have the best sex because in a marriage one spouse is concerned about the needs and emotions of the other, and vice versa.

A person can be assessed by their ethical, social, mental, emotional, and physical aspects of their health. Sex outside of marriage can cause damage physically if an unplanned pregnancy occurs, or we contract an STI, but it can also affect us holistically.  You meet someone, are attracted to them, and grow a connection-social and emotional. You make a decision to show someone you care about them-mental. Then you make the choice (ethical) to add sex to the relationship (physical).

Making a decision to be sexually active should be made with caution because it can affect us as a whole person. We cannot feed one area, deprive another, and be a completely healthy individual.

To Unplug or Not to Unplug?

To Unplug or Not to Unplug?

We live in a culture where most are constantly plugged into digital devices. There are few, if any, individuals that are not connected to social media in some manner or another.  What first appeared to be the cutting edge of technology has grown into a massive monster that now monopolizes our thoughts, time and energy.

No longer can parents, teachers, coaches, counselors and others that are influential with children stick their heads in the sand and ignore the growing problems involved with social media.  Even those that were in on the ground floor of creating this new technology at its onset have recognized the eventual pitfalls and have started to rally cry the dangers that exist*.  Open and honest discussions about the dangers of social media must take place to safe guard the hearts and minds of the youngest consumers of this ever-growing product.  Here are just a few topics you can discuss with children to help aid online safety in the enormous world of online media:

  • Stanger Danger-Communicate with kids that many people that they interact with online may not be who they say they are. Predators are out there looking for victims, and children are highly susceptible to falling for their tricks.   Be wise and monitor your child’s Internet usage!
  • Cyberbullying-Talk to kids about the act of cyberbullying and how it can be harmful to others. Some kids may not even realize that they are participating in this activity. Cyberbullying is defined as, “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices”. This includes sharing private and/or personal information about someone that causes shame or embarrassment for someone else and commonly occurs via social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.  It can also occur via SMS (short message service) text messaging, email and instant messaging via apps. Repeated acts of cyberbullying can have lasting and irreversible effects on the self-confidence of a child’s heart.  Make sure your child understands what cyberbullying is and encourage them to refrain from participating in this activity.
  • Electronic Footprint- Remind kids that everything that they post online can be viewed by friends and foes. An online presence creates a public record (also known as an electronic footprint) which is accessible by schools, employers, colleges and anyone else that is actively researching a person.  Whatever is posted online is permanent and can be retrieved from the cyberworld if it is ever needed.  Children need to understand that an inappropriate picture snapped today can have lasting consequences down the road.

So, what’s the solution to living in this new age of technology? Is merely talking to kids about the dangers enough?  How does one use technology, but not become obsessed and addicted?  How does one prevent their kids from becoming isolated in a world of apps?  The start of the solution is to simply unplug.  Taking a break from digital consumption can open up a world of possibilities for rest, rejuvenation and exploration not only to kids, but also to adults.

While unplugging long term may be an unrealistic goal in this modern day, intentionally unplugging for a span of time can serve to help the physical, mental and social health of individuals.  A good way to start this process is to participate in the National Day of Unplugging. In 2018, over 60,000 people from across the globe intentionally unplugged from their devices for a 24-hour period from sundown to sundown.   As a result of unplugging for just 24 hours, many reported positive responses. According to the National Day of Unplugging website, “over 90% reported that their participation increased their awareness about their personal digital consumption and that the NDU raised their awareness about the importance of reclaiming time to connect with loved ones.”  While unplugging for 24 hours may not solve all the problems associated with the dangers of social media, it is a good way to start to learn the practice of self-discipline.  It also allows people time to spend time with other people face to face and focus on things that really matter. How about giving it a try before the next official day and see what unplugging can do for you and those that you love?

*Common Sense Media is a not-for-profit organization that promotes safe technology and media for children. Check out their website to learn more about how this organization is attempting to reform the tech industry to help improve the digital lives of children.

How can I be a “Go-To” adult?

How can I be a “Go-To” adult?

As parents, guardians or mentors, we often desire to guide children to healthy and bright futures.  In this high tech, social media-focused age, we are competing with so many voices and influences speaking in children’s ears.  So, what can we, as parent/guardians or mentors, do to encourage children to seek us for open and honest answers to their important questions?

It may be helpful to know what Clarity’s I Decide For Me program, teaches students to look for in a “Go-To” Adult:

  1. This person must be age 18 or older.
  2. This person has the student’s best interest at heart
  3. The students spends time with this person on a regular basis
  4. This person is making healthy life choices

As parents, guardians or mentors, applying some of the following practices may encourage youth in your life to identify you as their “Go-To” Adult:

Model healthy choices:

  • This would include food and exercise as well as tobacco and alcohol consumption. How our children see us behave, will give us credibility to advise them.

Balance family and work:

  • Involve kids in weekly planning
  • Sit down for family discussions at least twice a week
  • Set aside at least 10 minutes at a time to have a one-to-one conversation with each child
  • Have a device-free dinner

Model community involvement:

  • Plan family activities to give back to the community
  • Participate in community events
  • Have children observe you treat others with respect, dignity and kindness

Our society desires a healthy, strong future.  Our children are that future, so it is critical that they are not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy as well.  Parents, guardians and mentors play an imperative role in this process.

The following websites are great resources for families and parenting:

How Healthy Are You?

How Healthy Are You?

Did you know that your happiness and overall well-being is directly linked to your health? When prompted to think about health most people immediately think of physical health. However, there is much more to consider.  You could say, “There’s more to me than what I see.”

Clarity’s services and educational programming are unique in that we focus on supporting people in a holistic way.  We are equally concerned about every aspect of a person’s health; not simply content to educate/aid physically.  This focus leads to a much healthier approach which leads to a much healthier person.

While it is true physical health is vitally important to our overall well-being, to lead a fulfilling life one must also focus on mental, emotional, social and ethical health as well.  These are the facets that make a person whole.

Intentional living and self-discipline are required aspects of leading a healthy life.   These skills are like muscles, the more they are used the easier it gets.  How intentional are you about making healthy decisions, and how much discipline do you exert toward your holistic health?

Here is a little quiz to help you assess your efforts. Check all of the statements that apply to you.


[ ]  I eat healthy, balanced meals regularly

[ ]  I get 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly

[ ]  I sleep approximately 8 hours every night

[ ]  I take 10,000 steps every day


[ ]  I spend more than one hour per week participating in spiritual activities

[ ]  I am optimistic about my future

[ ]  I resolve conflict nonviolently

[ ]  I have set high standards for myself and others


[ ]   I read daily to add to my knowledge

[ ]   I am purposeful to limit daily the amount of time I spend with media/social media

[ ]   I have future goals and plans

[ ]   I make daily decision with my future goals/plans in mind


[ ]   I spend time on a regular basis with friends I trust and admire

[ ]   I spend time daily with a loved one

[ ]   I regularly spend time with a group/club of like-minded individuals

[ ]   I easily empathize with others


[ ]   I am intentional to limit negative self-talk

[ ]   I have a positive outlook regarding my life and future

[ ]   Generally, I am proud of my behavior

[ ]   I am able to control angry/frustrated feelings, so I don’t say things I later regret

Where could you be more deliberate in taking control of your health?  Be intentional to find resources to aid you in strengthening identified weaknesses in areas from the quiz above.  You can do it! And Clarity is here to cheer you on!

Is it time to have “the talk”?

Is it time to have “the talk”?

Just thinking about “the talk” brings so many thoughts and emotions to the surface. You may be thinking, “It seems like just yesterday he/she was born!” The truth is, children are growing up quickly and learning things at an earlier age than ever before. The idea of children learning about their bodies and other intimate topics from peers at school or even the media can be frightening. Children are curious, so let’s do more than hope and pray they come to us when they have questions.

Parents are the most reliable source for trusted information for children. A perfect time to begin important conversations is when changes happen to their bodies. We can approach body growth changes positively and with understanding. Puberty is such an amazing part of growing up, so empowering our children to love the person they are becoming is important. Using resources such as can help parents explain the changes that are occurring and reassure children how normal it is. This resource specifically aids parents in talking to their children. It even offers articles for kids to read for themselves. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has a great webpage to help cover some of the physical changes bodies go through during puberty.

Once the topic of body changes has been introduced, a natural pivot in conversation to more intimate topics is possible. Let’s face it, we should have lots of talks throughout the teen years on the topics of respect, relationship building, boundary setting, etc.

No matter the timing of the talks, we need to remember to keep having them! Teaching our children to respect themselves is so important, particularly in today’s culture. We unfortunately live in a time where pornography is widely accepted as being the norm. Pornography degrades body image and teaches a false sense of intimacy. The following source will prepare you for a conversation that will hopefully keep pornography out of sight and out of mind. Covenant Eyes

The I Decide for Me program offered by Clarity teaches children the value they have and how to make healthy choices that will positively impact their lives. It provides education about the importance of abstinence and establishing safe and healthy boundaries. Not only is it a wonderful resource for our children, but it can also be used as a tool to further conversations about sexual health at home.