A Pap smear is an essential screening for cervical cancer. Regular Pap smears can catch any cellular irregularities early so you get treatment right away. At South Sound Women’s Center, the team of expert doctors offers Pap smears as well as any follow-up exams, if necessary. If you live in Olympia, Washington, or the surrounding area, call the office to make an appointment for this critical test.
Women older than 21 should get a regular Pap smear at least every three years. If you’re HIV-positive or have a weakened immune system, you may need more frequent tests. Once you’re older than 30 and have had at least three negative Pap smears in a row, you may choose to have the screening just once every five years.
Usually, the HPV virus causes the cellular changes identified on the Pap smear that may indicate cervical cancer or the chance of developing cervical cancer. HPV viruses are transmitted sexually, so if you’ve never had intercourse, you’re at a lower risk. However, a family history of cervical cancer or smoking can also increase your risk of cervical cancer and indicate the need for a Pap smear.
It’s important to schedule Pap smears regularly even if you’re not currently sexually active (but have been in the past) or are in a monogamous relationship. The HPV virus can lie dormant for months or years and still cause cervical cell abnormalities.
A Pap smear is often part of a woman’s regular wellness exam. The doctor uses a swab to brush the cervix, which is at the base of the uterus. The collected cells go to a lab for analysis. The test itself may be slightly uncomfortable, but it’s brief and doesn’t cause any lasting pain.
A negative Pap smear means that the test detected no abnormal cells on your cervix. An abnormal result doesn’t mean you have cancer. It simply means you have cells that warrant further investigation. Abnormalities often go away on their own, so the doctor may schedule a follow-up Pap within just a few months to reevaluate.
The doctor may also schedule you for a colposcopy, an exam during which the doctor uses a light with extra magnification to view the tissue of the cervix more clearly. If the cells are severely abnormal, the doctor may take a biopsy, or sampling of your cervical tissue.
Regular Pap smears are an essential part of your gynecological health. Schedule yours today by calling South Sound Women’s Center or by booking one online.