Each year in the United States, an estimated 12,900 women become diagnosed with cervical cancer, and an estimated 4,100 women pass away from the disease. Do not become a part of the statistics, adding to those numbers, but adopt a proactive approach to avoid it.
Do not give cervical cancer the chance to spread, but get a Pap smear regularly to catch it early on and put a stop to it. Cervical cancer does not look at age, as an estimated 47% of women diagnosed with it are younger than 35.
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear or a Pap test determines the presence of cervical cancer. A Pap smear collects cells from your cervix and screens them for any peculiar results. Mutated cells can cause human papillomavirus (HPV), which contributes to the development of cervical cancer. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, which your immune system eliminates within one to two years from contracting it.
In rare cases, the disease stays inside your body and cause genital warts or cervical cancer. The Pap test can detect these unusual changes that may take place at a cellular level. The test determines if the unusual changes indicate precancerous lesions, which, if discovered, indicate that you are at high risk of developing cervical cancer.
Why is a Pap Smear Important?
An early indication of precancerous lesions enables your OBGYN to develop a preventive treatment. Apart from discovering the risk or presence of cervical cancer, a Pap smear can also spot any issues occurring in the cervical or vaginal region such as infections.
How is a Pap Smear Performed?
Your OBGYN will use a speculum, which is a special medical tool, to perform the test. The tool allows them to open up your vaginal canal, so they can see inside your cervix. Next, your OBGYN will use a scraper to collect a sample of cells from your cervix.
It is okay to feel uneasy about the entire procedure, as no one wants to have a cold tool inserted into them and have their cervix scraped. In the long run, it will be worth it. You will only experience slight discomfort, and that is it.
What Should You Do If Your Pap Smear Comes Back Abnormal?
In the event your Pap test comes back abnormal, your OBGYN will recommend you return for the test in 4 to 6 months, depending on the type of cells they found. Your OBGYN may also recommend performing a colposcopy to get a clearer look at your cervix and obtain tissue samples.
They will perform a biopsy on the tissue cells to determine the type of cells present in your cervix. A colonoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a miniature camera connected to it. They will insert the tube into your vagina and take it up to your cervix. Your doctor will remove a small tissue piece from your cervix and use a microscope to examine it. This test can determine the best treatment according to the stage of your cervical cancer.
When Should I Start Getting a Pap Smear?
You should visit your OBGYN for a Pap test within 3 years of the first time you become intimate with someone or when you turn 21 years old. Some women stop visiting their OBGYN for their yearly Pap smear at 66, but they should not make that decision on their own. Instead, they need to visit their OBGYN, who can examine them to determine if they need to continue or discontinue with their Pap smears based on their past and current medical history.
What is the Best Way to Prepare for a Pap Smear?
Before visiting your OBGYN for a Pap smear, you should not douche or engage in any sexual activity for three days, as that can affect the accuracy of the test. Women should make an appointment for a Pap smear on the days they are not menstruating, as that too can affect the accuracy of the test.
If you are nervous about getting a Pap smear, communicate your concerns to your OBGYN. They will guide you through the entire process before, during, and after the Pap test. They will send your cells to the lab, and you can expect to receive your results within a few weeks.
Family Planning Associates Medical Group provides affordable abortion, birth control, STD testing, annual exams, free pregnancy testing, and ob-gyn services.