Importance of Pap Smears
By: A Lady's Doctor
Why get regular Pap smears?
A Pap smear is probably not your favorite part of your healthcare regime, but it can be a life-saving method of preventative care. Pap smears are typically performed at your annual gynecologist appointment. Your doctor collects cells from your cervix (the narrow lower portion of your uterus that opens into the vagina) to test for cervical cancer. If you haven’t received the HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccine your doctor may also test you for HPV in conjunction with your Pap. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer and estimates show that 14 million (!) new infections occur every year.*
Although yearly Pap smears are typically sufficient for most people, you may require more frequent Paps if you are HIV positive or have a weakened immune system due to health conditions. Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death in women in the US, but now it is the most preventable form of cancer due to regular Pap smears.
Pap smears are essential to women’s healthcare and provide many benefits such as:
- Pap smears may detect cervical cell changes in your body that could turn into cancer if left untreated
- Pap smears can help find cervical cancer in its early stages, making it easier to treat
- Pap smears allow for early detection which could mean less treatment and less recovery
- Pap smears catch HPV that has been dormant. The HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active so it’s still important for all women to get Paps…regardless of age or sexual activity
- Pap smears are extremely accurate and regular screenings can reduce cervical cancer rates and mortality by at least 80%!*
How does HPV play a role?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that many people do not even realize they have. Men and women can contract HPV and approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected. An individual infected with HPV may show no symptoms at all and the infection may lie dormant in the body for years before becoming active if it ever does at all. On the flip side, HPV can also cause genital warts and cervical cancer, although it’s important to know that the strain of HPV that causes warts is different than the strain that causes cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable due to the HPV vaccines, HPV testings (in women over 30), and regular Pap smears.
Although Pap smears can be unpleasant for some, the procedure is quick, highly accurate, and can be life-saving. Take steps to protect yourself from cervical cancer and schedule your annual Pap today.
Dr. Sefa-Boakye of A Lady’s Doctor has been practicing medicine since 1989 and is dedicated to ensuring his patients are happy and healthy throughout their pregnancy, delivery and postpartum! Learn more about our clinic here: https://aladysdoctor.com/about-us/