Pap Smear Test
Scheduling a pap smear test can save your life. Detecting cervical cancer early gives you the best chance at successful treatment options. South Pointe Healthcare makes pap tests quick and easy!
Pap Smear Test
Scheduling a pap smear test can save your life. Detecting cervical cancer early gives you the best chance at successful treatment options.
What Is A Pap Smear Test?
Benefits Of Testing
According to Women’s Health, a Pap smear, or Pap test, can save your life. This is because a Pap test can detect cervical cancer cells early, and the chance of successful treatment of cervical cancer is very high if the disease is caught early.
In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates that 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Fortunately, the number of women with cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased greatly in the last 40 years. This largely is because women are now regularly getting Pap tests, which can find cervical precancer before it turns into cancer.
When To Get A Pap Smear
Many women wonder who needs to get a pap smear or when they should get this test. Women 21 to 65 years old should get regular Pap tests. Some women think if they are not sexually active, had an HPV vaccine, or went through menopause they may not need a Pap smear, but experts recommend still getting one regularly. Even if a woman has had a hysterectomy, depending on the specific circumstance, a Pap smear may still be advised.
The current recommendation for a Pap smear includes:
- Women ages 21–29 get a Pap test every 3 years
- Women ages 30–65 get:
- A Pap test every 3 years, or
- An HPV test every 5 years, or
- A Pap and HPV test together (called co-testing) every 5 years
- Women older than 65 if they have never been tested, or if they have not been tested after age 60
Some women should get a Pap Smear more often. Your healthcare provider may recommend Pap tests more often if:
- You’ve had treatment for abnormal Pap results
- You’re a smoker
- You’ve had cervical cancer
- You have a history of precancerous cells
- You have a weakened immune system because of organ transplant, chemotherapy, or steroid use
- You are living with HIV, since women with HIV have an increased risk of cervical cancer and other cervical diseases because of a weakened immune system.
- The U.S. Department of Health recommends women with HIV get an initial Pap test at the time of the HIV diagnosis and a second Pap test (or Pap and HPV test if you are older than 30) 6 or 12 months later (depending on what your provider recommends. After three normal Pap tests in a row, you can get follow-up Pap tests every 3 years.
- Your birth mother was exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you
What Does A Pap Smear Test For?
A Pap smear is testing for cervical cancer. Since early on, cervical cancer often shows no signs or symptoms, screening for it with a Pap test is imperative. If caught early on, it is easier to treat.
Regular screening has been shown to prevent cervical cancers and save lives.
Human papillomavirus (HPV): Testing for HPV can often be done at the same time as a Pap test. HPV is a very common virus that often has no symptoms and is passed along during sex.
Keep in mind that a Pap smear does not test for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) or STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
Please ask your healthcare provider for STD or STI testing separately.
According to the American Cancer Society, things that could increase your chances for cervical cancer, include:
- Having HIV
- Having chlamydia
- Taking birth control for more than five years
- Giving birth to three or more children
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
- Having multiple sexual partners
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Giving birth earlier than 20-years-old
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
Many times there are no symptoms for Cervical Cancer or pre-cancer, especially early on, which is why it is so important to get regular Pap smears.
Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes larger and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, or bleeding and spotting between periods
- Having menstrual periods that are longer or heavier than usual.
- Unusual discharge from the vagina
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Swelling of the legs
- Problems urinating or having a bowel movement
- Blood in the urine
How To Prepare For A Pap Smear
For two days before your Pap test, avoid intercourse, douching, or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jellies.
Try to schedule your Pap smear for a time when you will not have your period.