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5 Things to Know About Pap Smears

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer in 2020. Here’s the good news: When caught early, cervical cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 92%. 

The most widely used tool for detecting cervical cancer is the Pap smear, a minimally invasive test procedure that doesn’t require any incisions or anesthetics. 

During a Pap smear test, you can relax while a small brush or a spatula is introduced via your vagina to collect cells from your cervix. Most women experience mild irritation or pressure during the test, but they don’t experience any pain.

From the staff of Bethel Family Medicine, here are 5 things you should know about the most widely used test for detecting cervical cancer.

1. Pap smears are necessary even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine 

The HPV vaccine doesn’t make you immune to all types of cervical cancer, and it definitely doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. You should still get a Pap smear whether or not you got the vaccine.

2. Sexual activity may prompt regular testing

Not all cervical cancers are sexually transmitted. However, some of them are, and your cancer risk could increase if you have multiple sexual partners and use birth control pills for prolonged periods. 

You may also need regular testing if you’ve recently undergone chemotherapy or a transplant, as these treatments reduce your ability to fight off cancerous growths.

3. Symptoms aren’t required to prompt a Pap smear

Cervical cancer comes with mild and often vague symptoms such as a heavier menstrual flow and pelvic pain. Don’t rely on symptoms to get a Pap smear, because cervical cancer often doesn’t come with clear warning signs.

4. Preventive Pap smears are done every 3 years 

According to the current guidelines, any woman can benefit from a Pap smear every 2-3 years. And since not all cervical cancers are sexually transmitted, even women who aren’t sexually active can benefit from the test.

5. Menstruation can impact the results of the test

If you’re on your period, it’s best to reschedule your appointment for a Pap smear. Menstrual blood can make it more difficult for a medical specialist to identify the cervical cells collected from your cervix, and it may lead to inaccurate interpretations. 

Get peace of mind with a Pap test 

If you’re between 21 and 65 years old, you may benefit from a Pap smear. Studies suggest that women who get diagnosed based on a Pap smear have a much higher survival rate than women diagnosed based on symptoms. 

Contact us to schedule an appointment and get peace of mind with a pap smear test.

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