The Importance of Getting a Pap Smear

The Importance of Getting a Pap Smear

Scheduling regular visits with your gynecologist for well-woman checks, which include a Pap smear, helps to track your health and maintain wellness. Staying on top of your wellbeing with screenings that check for potential problems is a part of preventive healthcare. 

A Pap smear screens for abnormal changes to your cervix that may develop into cancer in the future. Thanks in part to women getting regular Pap smears, deaths for cervical cancer have declined sharply compared to 20 years ago. 

Here at Ideal Gynecology, board-certified gynecologist Lillian Schapiro, MD and board-certified nurse practitioners Kathryn Garren, and Tiffany Morgan, want women to know that Pap smears save lives by detecting cervical cancer at the earliest stages when the likelihood of successful treatment is high. 

Pap smears detect cervical cancer early

Like many cancers, cervical cancer often causes no symptoms in the early stages. You can develop cervical cancer without being aware of it. Getting regular Pap smears provides the best protection against cervical cancer. Thanks to advances in medicine, women who get regular Pap smears are unlikely to die of cervical cancer. 

Pap smears check for changes to the cells of your cervix. Not only do Pap smears detect cancer early, it catches abnormal changes before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Detecting precancerous cervical cell changes enables patients to work with their provider to lower the chances of developing cancer.  

HPV and cervical cancer

Human papillomavirus is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer (99.7%). Out of this group of viruses, two increase the risk for cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus passed from person-to-person through sexual contact. It’s important to know that most women who have HPV will not develop cervical cancer. The majority of HPV cases clear on their own. 

It takes 15-20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. A weakened immune system, lifestyle factors such as smoking, and infections with other sexually transmitted diseases increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. 

What does a Pap smear involve and when to get one

A Pap smear is a simple screening that involves taking a sample of your cervical cells and sending it to a lab to view under a microscope. Your provider uses a speculum to see inside the vagina and swab the cervix to collect cells. 

A positive Pap smear is often an indication of an infection, such as HPV, or a bacterial or fungal infection. 

It’s recommended that women begin scheduling regular Pap smears at age 20. Depending on your medical history and risk factors, your provider will recommend that you schedule Pap tests every three or five years. 

The team at Ideal Gynecology is devoted to supporting women and girls throughout all phases of life. If you have questions or need to schedule a Pap test, give us a call to schedule a visit. We have offices in Atlanta and McDonough, Georgia. 

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