Understanding Why Regular Pap Smears Are Important

Family Medical Clinic, pap smear

Whether you’re a mother, a wife, a daughter, or a friend, you might find yourself ensuring that everyone around you is taken care of before you are. But making sure that you are well is important, too.

Regular checkups are a key part of maintaining your health — and Pap smears are no different. A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a routine test for women that screens for signs of cervical cancer. It’s often a part of your annual well-woman exam.

Beginning around age 21, women should have their first Pap smear. After that, you’re typically screened every three years until age 65. Getting a regular Pap test is the best way to detect cervical cancer.

Protecting against cervical cancer

Most women need Pap tests every three years, but some women may get them more frequently. At Family Medical Clinic, we discuss your situation with you and make a recommendation if you have:

Regardless of how often you might need to be tested, early detection is critical to preventing and treating cervical cancer. Cervical cancer that is caught promptly is easier to treat, and Pap smears are the most effective way to identify cancerous cells.

Invasive cervical cancer, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of your body. Cervical cancer is slow-growing, however, which is why regular testing is so important, providing opportunity to identify it before it’s advanced too far.

What happens during a Pap smear

Your Pap smear often takes place at the same time as your annual pelvic exam or with an HPV test. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer in women if it isn’t treated. For women who’ve had a total hysterectomy or who are over 65, Pap smears may no longer be necessary.

Dr. Lavern Davidhizar performs Pap tests in the Family Medical Clinic office, and the procedure only takes a few minutes. A small instrument takes a sample of cells from inside your cervix. Most of the time, patients don’t experience any pain during a Pap smear.

The collected cells from your cervix go to a laboratory for testing. The lab analysis looks for signs of cervical cancer or any changes in the structure of your cells that might suggest cervical cancer could develop.

If your Pap smear results come back negative, that means no abnormalities were discovered. Abnormal, or positive, results don’t mean you have cervical cancer. However, depending on what the results show, you may need additional testing to determine the source and significance of the abnormal cells.

Pap smears can bring attention to inflammation or infection in addition to signs of cancer development. Regular Pap smears help your care team monitor the health of your cervix to identify any potential issues early on, making treatment more effective.

 

Annual well woman exams and regular Pap smears are important to stay healthy and protect yourself from cancer. To schedule your appointment, call our office today.

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