Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in American women. That is why it is best to see your doctor regularly for early detection of cancer of the cervix.
How are doctors able to detect early signs of cervical cancer? By performing a Pap smear.
The Papanicolaou test, popularly known as a Pap smear, is similar to a biopsy. It is used to determine any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. It was developed in the U.S. by Greek surgeon Dr. George Papanicolaou in the early 1900s.
How Does a Pap Smear Work?
This test can catch precancerous cervical cells before they turn into cancer, and it can catch cervical cancer before it metastasizes to other organs. Early detection of abnormal cells gives women a better chance at halting cancer development.
Pap smears are done during a pelvic or gynecological examination. Health care professionals may administer the test inside a doctor’s office or medical clinic. As much as possible, women should avoid scheduling a Pap smear during their menstrual cycle.
How a Doctor Performs a Pap Test
The cervix is the outer opening of the uterus, located at the upper end of the vagina. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to widen the vaginal walls, making the cervix and uterus visible and accessible to the physician. The doctor then collects cells from the woman’s cervix.
The doctor collects the specimen of cervical cells using a scraper, or cervical brush. Then, the sample is sent to a pathology laboratory to test for cancerous or precancerous cell conditions.
The results will show whether you are positive or negative of abnormal cells. If cells are positive or questionable, your doctor will request that you come back for further testing.
Who Needs to Get a Pap Smear?
Doctors generally recommend that women have a Pap smear starting at age 21. Depending on one’s sexual activity and health status, some women are more at risk of cervical cancer than others.
Women who are HIV-positive, have weakened immune systems, or have had an organ transplant need to be tested for cervical cancer more often than others. Other risk factors include a positive diagnosis for precancerous cells in the past, exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth, and smoking history.
How Often Do I Need to be Tested?
Typically, doctors recommend that women between the ages of 21 and 65 have a Pap smear performed at least once every three years. Females who are 30 or older and do not have a family history of reproductive cancers may be told by their doctors that they only need a Pap smear every five years, or only HPV (human papillomavirus) testing.
Women who are over the age of 65 may not require further testing unless the doctor so recommends. Your physician will take your personal medical history and your family’s medical history into account when making the recommendation.
What Happens When Pap Smear Results are Positive?
If the results of a Pap smear come back positive, this means abnormal cells have been found in the body. This does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. You might actually have a slight inflammation or minor cell changes. The doctor will recommend further testing.
If the doctor then finds any abnormal tissues, they will take a larger tissue sample for biopsy. This biopsy is then sent to a laboratory for a more in-depth diagnosis.
Experienced Gynecologist in Miami
If you want to learn more about Pap smears and how they can help you avoid developing cervical cancer, feel free to call us at Lady’s Care Center today.
Contact us by calling (954) 538-1700 to schedule an appointment. Our clinic is here to help you take care of your body for a lifetime a health and wellness!