A pap smear or a pap test is a cervical screening method that involves collecting cells from your cervix to detect potentially precancerous or cancerous processes. Doctors recommend beginning South Charleston pap smear at age 21, but you and your provider can decide when you should start and how often you need to have a pap test. Early detection of cervical cancer gives you a greater chance of cure because the disease is manageable. Screening is your first step in halting the possible development of abnormal cells to cervical cancer.
How often should I get a pap smear?
Generally, women ages 21 to 65 should get a Pap test every three years. Women aged 30 years and older may need screening every five years if it is combined with HPV testing. Sometimes specialists may recommend HPV testing only for women 30 years and older. More frequent Pap smears are recommended if you are at risk of cervical cancer, regardless of age. Factors that predispose you to cervical cancer include:
- Diethylstilbestrol exposure before birth
- A Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
- HIV infection
- A history of smoking
- Weak immune system due to long-term corticosteroid use, chemotherapy, or organ transplant.
When can I stop having Pap smears?
Below are certain situations whereby your healthcare provider may decide to end Pap testing
If your previous tests for cervical cancer have been negative, you may consider stopping routine Pap testing at age 65.
Discuss your option with your doctor to establish what is best for you based on your risk factors. If you have multiple sexual partners, you may continue having routine Pap tests.
You have had a total hysterectomy. Total hysterectomy is a procedure that involves surgical removal of your uterus, including the cervix. It is sometimes used as a remedy for fibroid when other conservative treatments and minimally invasive procedures are ineffective. If you have had a total hysterectomy, ask your doctor if you still require routine Pap smears. You might discontinue routine screening if the hysterectomy was done for a noncancerous condition like fibroids. But if it is for a precancerous or cancerous condition, you may still need regular Pap testing.
How do you prepare for a Pap test?
The following tips can help ensure a Pap smear is most effective:
- Avoid scheduling a Pap smear during your menstrual cycle. If you are having your periods, have the test done another time.
- Do not use any vaginal medicines or spermicidal forms, jellies, or creams at least two days before the test. These may obscure abnormal cells, resulting in unreliable results. You also want to avoid activities like douching and sexual intercourse.
What happens during a Pap smear?
The test usually takes place in your doctor’s office for only a few minutes. You will undress from your waist down and lie on your back with your heels resting in stirrups. Using a speculum, your provider holds the walls of your vagina to see the cervix easily. The doctor uses a soft brush to collect cervical cells; this is usually not painful. You can go about your day without any restrictions after the test.
Visit your healthcare provider at Patel & Patel, M.D., Inc. for a Pap test to stop the possible development of cervical cancer.