Who Needs Pap Smears and Why
- Posted on: Sep 30 2017
A pap smear is one of the important diagnostic tests recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65. Throughout the years, this test has been the source of jokes and parodies, and it has been measured time and again for its value in the spectrum of women’s health. As more research has been conducted, we have seen the guidelines change regarding timing for pap smears. We have also seen that the routine practice of obtaining this test can save women’s lives.
What is a Pap Smear?
The pap smear portion of a pelvic exam is performed to observe cervical cells for the earliest possible signs of cancer. The test itself takes only a few moments and involves a brief swab of the surface of the cervix to obtain cells. The specimen collected during a Pap smear is sent to a laboratory for microscopic examination.
Frequency of Testing
Women used to be encouraged to obtain pap smear testing on an annual basis. Now, guidelines are more precise, focused on high-risk patients and also on various age groups. Most doctors recommend that testing begins at age twenty-one and that a pap is performed every 3 years. With newer methods of screening now available, and a greater understanding of the undertones of cervical cancer, some women may choose to have pap smears less frequently (every 5 years), but to incorporate HPV testing into their routine well-woman care. Current guidelines specify that 5-year intervals with the HPV and pap smear combination is suitable for women aged thirty and older.
What Happens after Cervical Cancer Screening
The majority of Pap smear tests performed each year return a negative result, meaning that no abnormal cells are present. If abnormal cells are found, the method of follow-up largely depends on a degree of differentiation between healthy cells and abnormal cells. Some “abnormal” pap results are inconclusive, showing no clear evidence of cellular changes caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus. In such cases, a repeat Pap smear and HPV test may be ordered sooner than the recommended interval. More severe anomalies may be further investigated with tissue biopsy or other diagnostic tests.
At Grace Obstetrics & Gynecology, patients are completely in the loop. The last thing we want is for you to worry about the results of an abnormal Pap smear, or wonder when you should schedule your screenings. For personal attention focused on your sexual and reproductive health, contact us in Granbury, Cleburne, Willow Park, or Fort Worth.
Posted in: Gynecology, Pap Smears