A simple, rapid technique called a “Pap Smear” (or “Pap test”) detects for cervical cancer. It entails using a microscope to examine cells extracted from the cervix. The test searches for abnormal cervical alterations (cervical dysplasia), which are precancerous or cancerous cells that may be an indicator of cancer but does not identify the disease. If any are discovered, more examinations like a colposcopy or biopsy will be performed in order to identify malignancy.

The Pap is a screening test, therefore there are precise recommendations for who should get one, when to get one, and how frequently, depending on age and risk factors. Although all women should follow these recommendations, there are specific cervical cancer risk factors that may indicate it is wise to get more frequent Pap screenings. These consist of:

– Having a family history of cervical cancer

– A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells3

– Infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

– Weakened immune system due to many factors, such as organ transplant, chemotherapy, or corticosteroids

– An infection, such as genital herpes or chlamydia

– Previous cancer of the genital tract

– Smoking

Even after a hysterectomy, you could still require Pap tests. You should continue to have Pap tests for 20 years after your surgery if you have a history of moderate to severe cervical changes or cervical cancer. This depends on the reason you had the hysterectomy, whether your cervix was removed (because cervical cells can remain at the top of the vagina after surgery), and whether you had your cervix removed.

The best test for abnormal cervical cells that could be malignant or precancerous as well as for identifying specific HPV strains linked to cervical cancer is the Pap smear. It has no hazards and is painless. Fortunately, most women only need to repeat the process every three years and it just takes a few minutes. Both of these aspects should lessen the anxiety associated with the possibility of taking this important test.

There are actually no health concerns connected to getting a Pap smear. Even if you are pregnant, the test is extremely safe.

Contact Dr. Barbara Karin Vela today to schedule an appointment.