Pap Smears for Early Detection
One of the most essential tests that a woman needs is also one that she’s most likely to delay – the Pap smear. The annual test is a must-have for your health and wellness.
It’s essential for the early detection of any changes in the cells of the cervix, including those linked to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Known by many as a “pap test,” it’s a simple screening procedure that can identify cancerous and precancerous cells on the cervix.
Who Needs to Get a Pap Smear?
The guidelines surrounding when and how often you should get a Pap smear can be confusing. You should start getting a regular Pap smear within three years of beginning sexual activity or at the age of 21, whichever comes first.
A Pap smear is advised every two years thereafter, regardless of whether you are sexually active or not. Your visit to the gynecologist will also include a screening for HPV and can be paired with STD testing.
Depending on your risk factors, Dr. Cook may recommend that you have the testing done every 3-5 years, if you’ve had three consecutive normal Pap smears.
Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists indicate that women over the age of 65 can stop getting the test if they have a history of negative screenings and don’t have additional risk factors to be considered.
There are some situations that can precipitate the need for more frequent testing:
- HIV positive
- Weakened immune system due to an organ transplant or chemotherapy
- Family history of cervical or uterine cancer
- Cervical cells that have undergone unusual changes
- Women over 65 with a history of precancerous lesions
- Women over 65 with a history of cervical cancer
- Women over 65 who have had a hysterectomy for a high-grade cervical lesion
What About HPV?
The HPV test is a highly beneficial screening tool, and particularly so, when used in conjunction with a Pap smear. HPV is one of the most commonly transmitted infections for women in their 20s and there are multiple types of HPV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most women who are sexually active will be infected at least once during their lifetime and never even know it unless they have the HPV screening.
What To Expect
You’ll be asked to disrobe from the waist down and you’ll be positioned on the exam table or chair. Some gynecologists prefer the traditional exam table, while others utilize a specialized chair that can be tipped and rotated for the gynecologist’s convenience.
A Pap test is typically painless. The gynecologist will insert a device called a speculum into the opening of the vagina. The speculum enables the practitioner to open the vaginal area wider for a better view of the cervix.
A swab that contains a cotton swab or a tiny brush on the end will be inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the surface lining of the cervix. The sample will be sent to a lab where it will be analyzed under a microscope for the presence of any abnormal cells.
Getting Your Results
Results of the Pap smear usually come back in approximately XXX days. In the meantime, continue to enjoy your life as you normally would.
It’s important to know that your health is Dr. Cook’s primary goal. She has the experience and knowledge to treat the most common conditions, right from her office.
Your Health Deserves It!
Many women view their annual Pap test as a necessary nuisance, but it’s a highly effective means of detecting any cervical anomaly early with potentially life-saving results. A Pap smear and HPV test are essential elements of every woman’s health and wellness at any age.
For same day appointments please call us at (770) 431-2322. We make every effort to respond to your request right away during regular business hours.