What is a Pap smear?
A pap smear is a medical screening process used for detecting abnormal changes in the cervix, the lower section of the uterus. You may quickly notice many gynecologists and other gynecological staff calling pap smears, pap tests. Both terms can be used interchangeably because they refer to the same exact screening process.
The pap smear has its name because the test actually involves obtaining a physical swab sample of body tissue made up of cervical cells which are then smeared onto a glass slide, stained, and examined underneath a microscope for cytological studies. Cytology is the branch of science using cellular changes and observations for the diagnosis of disease.
Therefore, the pap smear is widely considered the leading scientific standard for the early detection of medical diseases like human papillomavirus infection (HPV), herpes simplex virus infection or cold sores, genital herpes, trichomonad infections, cervical dysplasia (CIN), or cervical cancer.
Should I get a Pap smear?
Most insurance health plans must cover pap smears for free because pap smears are viewed as a routine health care procedure for all women between the ages of 21 years to 65 years old. Whether you are sexually active or not, it does not matter because you still need regular pap smears for your own health. The same holds true for those younger than 65 who have already experienced menopause.
However, even if you think pap smears do not apply to you, never make the mistake of assuming you do not need routine pap smears without first receiving professional clearance from your regular gynecologist. If you do not know whether or not you should get a pap smear, always seek the advice of your gynecologist before drawing final conclusions.
When Should I get a Pap smear?
All women should start routine pap smears beginning at 21-years old. However, if you are sexually active you should start pap smears within 3 years of being sexually active or after turning 21-years old. Go with whichever time frame comes first. Young ladies between 21-years to 29-years of age, need pap smears more often than other age groups. The recommendation is regular pap smears every 3 years, unless an abnormality is detected. Women over age 30 should schedule routine pap smears every 3 to 5 years.
For special cases, pap smears could be recommend as often as every 6 months. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all HIV-positive women get an initial pap smear, and get re-tested 6 months later. Women with AIDS or weakened immune systems have a higher risk for developing various cervical diseases.
Why are Pap smears important?
While early detection and prevention for all medical diseases are important, pap smears are particularly useful in helping gynecologists detect abnormal cervical cells so treatment can take place before these abnormalities turn into cervical cancer. Pap smears are crucial to reproductive health because many women suffering or dying from cervical cancer could have been saved.
For example, in 2015 alone, the American Cancer Society states, “approximately 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and about 4,100 women will die as a result of cervical cancer.”
Moreover, pap smears are extremely reliable in helping medical professionals find, diagnose, and treat human papillomavirus infection (HPV). HPV is the leading cause for cervical cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 cause 70-percent of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. HPV is an extremely common virus, passed on from one person to the next during sexual intercourse. If HPV is left untreated, in most cases the virus will lead to cervical cancer.
Prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are examples of the necessary action steps needed to slow the progression of cervical cancer in women, and routine pap smears are the key to doing so.
Where should I go to get my Pap smear?
The practice of Anthony C. Quartell, M.D. & Associates is dedicated to providing special health needs for women of all ages, whether just entering puberty, expecting a baby, or traveling through menopause. Always go to a trusted, trained gynecologist for pap smears. Call our office at 973.716.9600 or fill out a short contact form to schedule your pap smear appointment today.