Has it been more than three years since your last Pap smear? Then, it’s time to schedule this important health screening. Regular Pap smears find cervical cancer during the early stages, improving your chances of a full recovery.
At MS Family Medicine Health Care PC in Rosedale and Garden City, New York, Michele Reed, DO, FAAFP, and our team of compassionate practitioners provide wellness and preventive care services like Pap smears to help you stay on top of your health.
In this month’s blog, we talk about Pap smears, why you need them, and when it’s time to schedule your next screening.
About Pap smears
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a health screening for cervical cancer. For the test, we use a swab-like tool to gently collect a sample of cells from your cervix — the narrow tube between your uterus and vagina. We then send the sample to the pathology lab for an evaluation.
The purpose of a Pap smear, like all other health screenings, is to find health issues before you have symptoms. A Pap test can even detect cellular abnormalities that may increase your risk of cervical cancer in the future. Having this information may change your Pap smear screening schedule.
We may also test for human papillomavirus (HPV) during a Pap smear. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the most common cause of cervical cancer. Testing positive for high-risk strains of HPV may also change your screening schedule.
Why Pap smears are important
Pap smears save lives. Rates of cervical cancer deaths in the United States have declined by 50% over the past 30 years because of Pap smears.
Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer, and it can take 3-7 years for high-grade abnormal cervical cells to turn into cancer. Finding and removing these cells early may prevent cervical cancer from developing at all.
Pap smears also benefit fertility. Treatment for cervical cancer includes a hysterectomy (removal of your uterus) and radiation therapy, making pregnancy impossible.
Our own Dr. Michele Reed recently talked with acclaimed OB/GYN and infertility expert Dr. Tia Jackson-Bey about infertility. Watch the podcast Unlocking the Secrets of Fertility: Discover expert advice from renowned OBGYN Tia Jackson-Bey to learn more.
When to schedule a Pap smear
Pap smear screenings start at age 21 and repeat every three years until age 65. If you include the HPV test with your Pap smear and you test negative for HPV, you only need a Pap smear and HPV test every five years. You can also choose to have HPV testing alone every five years.
We usually start testing for HPV at age 30. We may also recommend the HPV vaccine during physicals and annual check-ups to protect you from the cancer-causing strains.
If you’re 21 and you’ve never had a Pap smear, it’s time to schedule your first screening. If it’s been more than three years since your last Pap smear, now’s the time to schedule your next test. Book an appointment online or over the phone with MS Family Medicine Health Care PC today.