A Pap Smear Can Save Your Life; Are You Up to Date?

First developed in 1928 by George Papanicolaou, the Pap smear has become one of the fastest, easiest, and most effective ways to find cervical cancer early and save women’s lives. At the Women’s Pavilion of the Palm Beaches, Dr. Leroy Charles conducts Pap smears when needed as part of your annual well-woman exam to screen for potential cancer cells and help protect your life.

Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable

Cervical cancer has almost no symptoms in its early stages or has symptoms such as vaginal discharge or abnormal vaginal bleeding, which you might easily brush off as the result of a myriad of other conditions.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes abnormal changes in the cervical tissue that can lead to the development of cancer cells. Undetected, cancer cells can quickly multiply, and the cancer can reach later stages before you know you are sick.

A Pap smear every three years can detect cancer early, and when detected early, cervical cancer is highly treatable. Pap smears combined with HPV vaccination can prevent an estimated 93% of cancer cases. But only around 69% of women stay up to date on their Pap smears.

Who should get a Pap smear or HPV test?

Most doctors recommend Pap smears start at age 21 and may recommend a Pap test every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. We can give the HPV vaccine as early as age nine to protect young girls from contracting many strains of HPV over the course of their lifetime. Adult women typically can start HPV screening at age 30 or after an abnormal Pap result.

Starting at age 30, you can receive your Pap smear and HPV test at the same time and be tested every five years instead of every three. Certain women may need a Pap smear more often. Dr. Charles might recommend a more frequent Pap if you:

What to expect from a Pap test

Your Pap test only takes a minute and shouldn't hurt, although you may feel a slight pinch as the tissue sample is collected. Dr. Charles uses a smooth instrument called a speculum to gently open your vagina to allow him to insert a small instrument as far up as your cervix. He scrapes off a tiny sample of tissue and analyzes it for the presence of cancer cells or precancerous cells.

In most cases, your Pap should come back normal, and no further action is be needed. In case of an abnormal Pap result, though, there’s no need to panic — many things can cause an abnormal Pap, and Dr. Charles typically runs a second test to rule out any issues.

It’s not unusual for women to have an HPV infection that results in an abnormal Pap, but the infection clears on their own and the next Pap is normal. Dr. Charles lays any fears you have to rest and ensures proper follow-up.

If you are overdue for your Pap smear, call our office today, or book an appointment for a well-woman exam online.

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