What is a Pap Smear?
Pap smears are minimally invasive, painless ways to check for abnormal cervical cells. Your doctor or OB/GYN will use a cotton swab (much like a Q-tip with a long handle) to brush a few sample cells from your cervix. The cells are smeared onto a glass slide and examined under a microscope by a trained medical technician. If the cells are abnormal, further testing is ordered.
Why Get a Pap Smear?
Pap smears are essential tools used as the first line of detection of cervical cancer.
How Significant is Cervical Cancer?
Thirteen thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. About 3,000 women die from cervical cancer every year. Early detection and treatment is key to overcoming this form of cancer.
What is HPV?
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a group of over 40 viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, from genital warts to other cervical and vaginal infections. A few strains of HPV can cause changes in the cervix that can result in cervical cancer. While not everyone who develops an HPV infection will get cervical cancer, HPV is the most common precursor for cervical cancer.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Contracting HPV?
There are several ways to reduce your risk for contracting HPV. First of all, you should limit your number of sexual partners and use condoms if your relationship is not monogamous. Secondly, you should consider getting the HPV vaccine. Check with your doctor for details on this series of vaccinations.
How Long Does a Pap Smear Take?
A pap smear only takes a couple of minutes. It can be done in your doctor's office or at a clinic.
Who Should Get a Pap Smear?
You should start getting pap smears if:
How Often Should You Get a Pap Smear?
You should get a pap smear:
What Does it Mean if Your Pap Smear Results Came Back as Abnormal?
If you've just received notification that you had an abnormal pap smear, it means you should get additional testing to make sure you do not have an HPV infection or cervical cancer. Many tests come back with false positives, meaning the second pap smear will come back saying your cervical cells are normal. This is because medical technicians are trained to err on the side of caution when reading pap smear slides in order to catch any cases of HPV or cervical cancer so early treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. If your pap smear comes back abnormal, hurry to get a follow up test or exam done, but do not panic. Most abnormal pap smears turn out to be easily treatable cervical or vaginal infections and not cervical cancer.
Learning that your pap smear results are abnormal isn't necessarily reason to panic, so don't jump to the conclusion that you have cervical cancer. Around half of abnormal results point to minor cervical conditions that aren't cause for worry, but do follow up with your doctor to determine a plan for an exact diagnosis and treatment plan.
Most women dread going through a yearly pelvic exam and Pap test. The annual check can potentially save your life, so women need to understand the process and follow up procedures and what to do if abnormal pap smears result.
While pap smears are conducted as preventative measures to detect human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer, there are many reasons for abnormal pap smear results that don't automatically mean you have cervical cancer.
If you've recently had a pap smear procedure performed, you may have gotten the results back saying you have cervical dysplasia. Don't stress yourself before understanding some basic information about cervical dysplasia and treatment.