A pap smear is used to collect a sample of cervical cells to test for abnormalities, like HPV (human papillomavirus), which can increase the risk of cervical and other forms of cancer according to the National Cancer Institute.
As with other types of health screenings, some women may need a pap smear test more or less frequently depending on factors like age, family and personal cancer history, overall health, and history of STDs or gynecological challenges.
Do I have to get a pap smear at my well woman exam?
It depends on several factors. Generally, a Pap smear is recommended every 3-5 years beginning at age 21. However, if you have an abnormal pap smear result or a history of cervical cancer, you may need to get follow-up testing more frequently.
A well woman exam includes several preventive screenings. It is a comprehensive and preventive annual checkup for your gynecological and reproductive health, so you may not necessarily need a pap smear at every well woman exam every time.
If you’re experiencing new symptoms or have concerns since your last pap smear or well woman exam, give us a call to discuss your options and whether additional screening is necessary.
Why are pap smears necessary?
During your pap smear, a small sample of cells is collected from your cervix to check for changes or abnormalities that might indicate signs of cervical cancer. The cells are sent to the lab for review and may come back with a result of normal or abnormal.
If your pap smear is abnormal, our team may recommend additional screening with a colposcopy. A colposcopy is an in-office procedure similar to a pap smear, but it allows our team to get a closer look at your cervical and vaginal tissue and is more comprehensive than a pap smear.
Depending on the results of the colposcopy, you may receive additional testing or a biopsy of suspicious tissue. While an abnormal pap smear can be nerve-wracking and alarming, it’s essential to keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer.
Pap smears are an essential preventive tool to help to catch cervical cancer early when it’s still highly treatable.
If it’s been more than a year since your last well woman exam, give us a call to schedule an appointment. In addition to health screenings, your well woman exam is the perfect opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions about your health.
For more information about pap smear screening and to schedule your next well woman exam, contact Memorial Women’s Specialists today.