Pap smears, also known as Pap tests, help to identify suspicious cells in your cervix that could signal a precancerous condition.
Many women find this test to be uncomfortable or scary and try to avoid going to their gynecologist because of it, but the few minutes of discomfort are ultimately worth the health benefits. Let’s find out why regular Pap smears are so important to your health.
What Are Your Risks Factor for Cervical Cancer?
The main risk factor for developing cervical cancer is HPV or the Human Papillomavirus. This is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer, and you can contract it from any kind of sexual encounter.
Other risks include smoking, long term use of contraceptives, an active sexual life, and giving birth repeatedly.
Risks DO NOT include family history. Even if no one in your family has had cervical cancer before, you should still be screened.
Just because you have no symptoms does not mean you have no risk of cervical cancer. A screening test is done precisely to detect abnormal cells when there are no symptoms.
Don’t delay screening because you are afraid you may already have cervical cancer, and it’s too late to be treated. Regular screenings are often able to catch the suspicious cells early enough to treat and prevent the development of cervical cancer.
Guidelines for Pap Smears in Alaska
The CDC instructs us to begin getting a Pap smear at age 21 and repeat them every 3 years until age 30. Between ages 30 and 65 we can safely repeat the test every 5 years as long as there are no abnormal results. After age 65, further Pap tests are needed only if your physician directly orders more tests or you have concerning symptoms.
Cervical cancer is preventable by regular Pap smears plus screening for HPV and treating any abnormal cervical cells early.
Benefits of Regular Pap Smears
Unfortunately, cervical cancer rates have been on the rise in the last several years. A recent study confirmed that there has been a 47% increase in cervical cancer among white women age 55 to 59, and a 72% increase among black women in the same age group.
Regular Pap smears can reduce these numbers. When you follow the guidelines for regular Pap tests and HPV screenings, the benefits are both physical and emotional.
First, you are reassured in knowing that you are doing all you can to prevent cervical cancer. In addition to this, you are being screened before any dangerous symptoms show up, and you also know you are catching any abnormal cells that could later develop into cancer.
There is less of a chance for the cancer to spread if it is caught and treated early on, and most important of all, you have a better overall chance of survival.
Speak to Women’s Care of Alaska about your best screening schedule for cervical cancer, and make sure to attend your yearly gynecological examinations!
As always, if you have any further questions, please contact our office!