Medical terms can seem foreign and confusing, especially if it’s been a few years since your high school Sex Ed class. Here at Bridgercare, we’ve compiled a glossary of terms commonly used in around the clinic to help you navigate your own reproductive health. Remember, knowledge is power!

Cervix – The narrow passage from the uterus into the vagina.

Cervical Cancer – A tumor in the cervix, often caused by strains of HPV. Early stages of cervical cancer often have no symptoms but as the cancer progresses it can cause abnormal bleeding, pain, or discharge.

Chlamydia – A common sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. It often has no symptoms but if left untreated can cause fertility issues in women. It’s easily detected and treated by a provider.

Colposcopy – A medical procedure to examine the cells in your cervix. It is often done if your Pap Smear results are abnormal. When you see “colp-” used in medical terms, it means something pertaining to the vagina.

Endometriosis – The abnormal growth of tissue outside of the uterus. It causes severe pain with menstruation and/or sex.

Gonorrhea – A common sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. Symptoms may include painful urination or discharge.

HPV – Human Papillomavirus is the most sexually transmitted virus. There are hundreds of HPV strains, some leading to genital warts or cervical cancer. There is no cure but a preventative vaccine called Gardasil is recommended for boys and girls ages 9 through 26.

IUD – An intrauterine device (IUD) is a tiny T-shaped device implanted in the uterus for contraception. There are low dose hormonal and non-hormonal options. A provider inserts an IUD and can remove it at any time. IUDs last for 3 to 10 years, depending on the device.

LARC – Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives, like IUDs or implants, last for 3 to 10 years (depending on the device) to prevent pregnancy and are the most effective forms of conversation. They can be removed at any time.

LEEP treatment – A Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure is a treatment that treats abnormal cervical cells. If abnormal cells are found in a Pap Smear or colposcopy, a small electrical wire loop is used to remove the cells. (Don’t worry, numbing medication is also used to prevent pain during the procedure).

Ovarian Cyst – Sacs, either solid or filled with fluid, that develop in the ovary or on its surface. Many women develop ovarian cysts that resolve on their own. However, it can be very painful if a cyst ruptures or grows too large.

Pap Smear – A procedure that tests the cells on your cervix to see if they are cancerous or might become cancerous in the future. Cells are collected and then examined under a microscope for abnormalities. The Pap Smear is named for George Papanicolaou, the Greek doctor who invented the test in 1927.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – A bacterial infection of a woman’s reproductive system, often caused by sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea or chlamydia. It can lead to chronic pain and fertility issues.

PrEP – Pre-exposure Prophylaxis is a daily pill to prevent HIV infection for people who are at high risk of contracting the virus.

Sliding Scale Fee – When a fee is determined by a patient’s ability to pay. If your income is lower, you pay less for services.  

Speculum – A medical tool, either made of plastic or metal, that is inserted in the vagina during pelvic exams so that doctors can inspect the cervix. As with many early medical inventions, it has a problematic but interesting history.

Title X –  A federal grant program dedicated to providing family planning and reproductive health services to low income and uninsured Americans. It was enacted under President Richard Nixon in 1970.