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Monday, May 17, 2021
Over the last several years, guidelines around the tests which can help detect early signs of cervical cancer — HPV and Pap screenings — have gone through some changes. So how do women know whether, or how frequently, they should get one?
The experts at SouthCoast Health are here to help break down Pap screenings, and highlight the benefits.
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap (Papanicolaou) smear — or test — is a short, outpatient procedure that tests for the presence of cervical cancer cells.
During the process, your health specialist first places a speculum inside your vagina, keeping it open so the cervix can be clearly viewed. Next, using tools, a sample of cells and mucus is obtained from the outer edge of the cervix as well as the inner cervix. While there may be some very brief discomfort, the procedure is over quickly.
Collected samples are sent to a lab for careful viewing and testing. Your provider will receive results as negative (normal) or positive (abnormal), and will notify you for any required follow-up.
When To Test, and Why
Guidelines and indications for Pap smears come from: USPSTF, ASCCP, and ACS.
According to the CDC, long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, and a Pap test is the method for identifying the presence of these cancerous or precancerous cells.
In short, age differentiates which type of Pap test is indicated. Women over the age of 21 it is recommended to have a Pap smear as part of their preventative medicine screening for cervical cancer. Pap tests can be every 3 years. After the age of 30 some type of combined tests called “cotests” (combined HPV and Pap tests) can be every five years.
“Caught early, cervical cancer remains highly treatable. Patients can still anticipate a good quality of life after diagnosis and remission,” assures SouthCoast Health Family Medicine physician, Dr. Rebecca Sellers.
When to Test More Frequently
There are a few other risk factors that may lead your doctor to recommend more-frequent Pap tests, despite the guidelines and regardless of your age. The Mayo Clinic outlines these factors as:
Regular pap screenings are one of the many things you can do to ensure long-term, whole-body health. If you have further questions or concerns about an upcoming Pap test, need to make an appointment, or are unsure whether you’re due to schedule one — we’re here for you. Click here to schedule an appointment or give us a call at 912-691-3600.
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