Insertion of the speculum during a PAP smear examination can be painful for some women. The fear of this pain may be enough to keep women from scheduling an annual examination. In women who schedule the PAP smear examination, the thought of pain is enough to cause anxiety and stress. A water-based gel, when applied to the speculum before insertion or expansion, may reduce pain leading to less anxiety, but does the gel affect PAP smear outcomes.

Researchers randomly chose women for a control group and test group from 1,580 patients undergoing a PAP smear. There were both premenopausal and post-menopausal women in the study. Post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer vaginal dryness, which could increase pain when the speculum is inserted and/or expanded.

A small amount of water-based gel was applied to the speculum before insertion, in the test group. The control group speculum was not lubricated with water-based gel. Women in the test group experienced less pain and the results of the PAP smear were not affected by the water-based gel, according to cytopathologists.

Conclusion: Water-based gels, when applied to the speculum before insertion during a PAP smear, reduce pain without affecting PAP smear results. Reduced pain means less anxiety and a stronger likelihood a women will continue scheduling PAP smear examinations. PAP smears are essential for early detection of pre-cancerous cells and early diagnosis of some reproductive cancers.

Source: Serap Simavli, Ikbal Kaygusuz, Tugba Kınay, Selma Cukur. The role of gel application in decreasing pain during speculum examination and its effects on Papanicolaou smear results. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. October 2013. DOI: 10.1007/s00404-013-3047-x.