What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is used to examine the cells in your cervix or the lower part of your uterus that opens into your vagina. Pap tests are an invaluable tool in cervical cancer prevention because finding abnormal cells before they mutate into cancer cells substantially increases your chances of avoiding or surviving cervical cancer.
The five-year survival rate for women who detect early-stage cervical cancer cells is over 90%; when cervical cancer cells are detected before they’ve had an opportunity to invade any surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.
How is a Pap smear done?
A Pap smear is usually performed during a routine pelvic exam. To complete the quick test, your doctor at Pure OBGYN uses a sterilized speculum to gently open your vagina so your cervix is visible.
Using a slender brush, they swab a few cells from the tissues in and around your cervix. The cell sample then is viewed under a microscope for close examination.
While some women may experience brief, mild discomfort during a Pap smear, the procedure generally isn’t painful.
How often should I have a Pap smear?
Having regular Pap smears is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent advanced-stage cervical cancer. For healthy, low-risk women between the ages of 21 and 65, Pap tests are generally recommended every three years.
At the age of 30, many women can opt to continue having a Pap test every three years, or start having a combined Pap/HPV test once every five years.
If you’ve had abnormal Pap results or a previous cervical cancer diagnosis in the past, however, you may require more frequent Pap tests.
What does an abnormal Pap smear result mean?
Abnormal cervical cells don’t always indicate cancer. They may mean that you have a minor problem with your cervix, or it may mean you have slightly abnormal squamous cells that don’t necessarily indicate the presence of precancerous cells. In such cases, your doctor may perform a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) for further evaluation.
A LEEP uses a slim wire loop with an electric current to surgically remove a thin layer of cervical tissue. This quick in-office procedure uses a local anesthetic to prevent pain.
If your results show that you do have potentially precancerous cells like atypical glandular cells or a squamous intraepithelial lesion, undergoing another LEEP is often the best way to remove any abnormal cells that remain.
To schedule your next Pap smear, call Pure OBGYN or book an appointment online today.