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How Often Do You Need a Pap Smear?
For women, getting a pap smear should be a critical part of monitoring wellness and health. There are many important aspects of your well-being. A good diet and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of illnesses and disease. Checking for health conditions is also vital, especially as you age. A pap smear screens for cervical cancer, which can prepare you to treat and manage the disease if you have it. If the test is negative, the screening can give you the peace of mind you need.
An overview of the screening
A woman’s primary care physician or OBGYN will administer the test. This can take place during a routine wellness checkup or any other appointment at the woman’s request or doctor’s suggestion. The doctor will swab the cervix, taking a sample of cells. Lab personnel will process the test, and the doctor will analyze the results. The woman should learn the findings within a few days or a week.
Who is at risk for cervical cancer?
Women who are HIV-positive have a greater chance of getting this disease. Also, women who have had chemotherapy for cancer treatment may have a weakened immune system. This is also another risk factor. The patient should consult the OBGYN with any concerns or questions about whether they are prone to the condition. The doctor will be happy to answer these questions and will provide any additional information the patient would like to know.
When to get a pap smear?
Doctors recommend that women get this screening every three years, starting at age 21. Those who are more at risk should get one more frequently. Starting at age 30, if the woman has not had a positive result for cervical cancer, the doctor may allow the test to occur every five years. Once the patient reaches age 65 and has not had an abnormal test, it will no longer be necessary to have one.
Women, who have a history of cancer in the family, may have a pap smear every year. A patient who is more vulnerable to having cervical cancer should have an annual pap smear as well. These patients are those with weakened immunity and a diagnosis of HIV. Those who smoked or smoke should also have more frequent pap smears. A woman who had a hysterectomy may not need pap smears after. But those who had a hysterectomy because of cancer cells should still have this diagnostic test.
Before and during the screening
Women who are getting a pap smear for the first time may feel scared or nervous about the procedure. It is important to stay calm during the process. Women may find it helpful to take deep breaths and relax as much as possible during the screening. Women should not have sex the day before or the day of the test. Patients should also inform the doctor whether they are menstruating at the time of the screening. In this case, the doctor may reschedule the test so that it can yield more accurate results.
The benefits and limitations
It is important to know the benefits and limitations of every procedure or test, especially if it is a little invasive like a pap smear. Being aware of them allows the patient to make informed decisions. Studies show that a pap smear can lower one’s risk of dying from cervical cancer. Below are the benefits and limitations of getting a pap smear:
- Can detect cervical cancer early
- Can lead to the early treatment of the early cervical cancer stages
- Increases one’s chance of survival
- Early detection of cancer may result in less treatment and recovery times
- Women may go through more pap smears and treatments for a condition that may not lead to cervical cancer at all
- This test may suggest the presence of abnormal cervical cells even if there are none
- Pap smears may lead to overdiagnosis and may result in a change in the patient’s quality of life
- Pap smears may not detect abnormal cells even if these cells are present
Do not neglect it
Though this screening can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is critical for your health. It is effective at detecting cervical cancer. You do not want to put off this test only to find out later that you have cancer. It is much better to go through with it now and know what you face. Your OBGYN will be as gentle and discreet as possible. Call the doctor’s office today so you can make an appointment for your next screening.
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