Pap smear or cervical smear is a test done to screen for any abnormal cells in the cervix. This test can also determine any vaginal infections or inflammation that the patient should be concerned about. However, the main reason for getting a Pap smear is to screen for cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer has been the most prevalent type of cancer that caused death in women in the US. But thanks to Pap smear tests, the number of cervical cancer cases has significantly declined since it had been made available in the 1950s. This is why early detection of cancer, which is what Pap smears are for, can increase one’s chances of getting cured!
If you are between the ages of 21 and 69, it is recommended that you get regular Pap smears at your local family medical clinic. But there are circumstances when a test is not necessary. Here’s how to know when you should get a Pap smear and when you don’t have to:
When Is It Acceptable to Not Get a Pap Smear?
Pap smears may not be necessary if you are considered low risk for cervical cancer. For instance, if you are below 21 years old, whether you are sexually active or not, the risk for cervical cancer is very low. Any abnormal cell presence often returns to normal even without treatment.
The same goes if you are over the age of 69 and you have had regular Pap smears in the past and got normal results. The tests are also no longer necessary if you had your cervix removed during a hysterectomy procedure. However, if you had a hysterectomy because of the existence of pre-cancer or cancer cells in your cervix, you may still need to get the test.
When Do You Need a Pap Test?
Your need for a Pap test and its frequency depends on several factors, including your age and your risks.
If you are between the ages of 21 and 29, it is recommended that you get a Pap test at least once every three years, especially if you are sexually active. The same goes for women aged 30 to 69 years old. Likewise, your doctor may recommend an HPV test every five years, or you can still get tested for both.
It is also recommended for pregnant women to get tested. It is typically done in the early stages of pregnancy because it would be best to get it treated immediately before any conditions worsen if there is any abnormality. Note that the Pap smear should be done before you reach the sixth month of pregnancy. Then, you shouldn’t have a test done until 12 weeks have passed since you gave birth.
How to Ensure That Your Pap Smear Is Accurate?
Pap smear results can come back as unsatisfactory, which could mean that:
- There was an error in the test administration.
- The cells couldn’t be adequately evaluated because of the presence of mucus or blood.
- There were not enough cervical cells to do an accurate test.
To prevent an unsatisfactory test result, you should get tested at least five days after the last day of your period. And then, 48 hours prior to your test, you shouldn’t have intercourse or use tampons, douches, vaginal creams, lubricants, and other vaginal products.
Pap smears are one of the most important tests that women should get, together with a mammogram and colonoscopy. It’s always better to get tested early on so that you can get the peace of mind that you are healthy. Even if the test comes back and it turns out there are cancerous cells, it’s still a good thing that you can detect it sooner rather than later as this will increase the chance of defeating cancer.
You are responsible for your health, so make sure that you get necessary tests like Pap smears from your primary care physician.
If you want to get your Pap smear done, be sure to visit your trusted family care clinic in Santa Fe, NM. At Aspen Medical Clinic, our physicians will always care for your well-being so that you can live a happy and healthy life. Contact us today to schedule your test appointment!