A pap smear takes only a few minutes, but can save the lives of women by detecting cervical cancer early and, therefore, giving a woman the opportunity to prevent or treat any abnormalities before they become life-threatening.
Cervical cancer screening is especially important for women’s health. Pap smear is one of the 10 appointments every woman should make. A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a medical procedure that tests for premalignant or malignant cells on a woman’s cervix.
Who needs a Pap smear?
Current guidelinesTrusted sources recommend that women get regular Pap smears every three years starting at age 21. Some women may be at increased risk for cancer or infection. You may need more frequent tests if:
- You’re HIV-positive.
- You have a weakened immune system from chemotherapy or an organ transplant.
If you’re over 30 and have not had abnormal Pap tests, ask your doctor about having one every five years if the test is combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) screening.
HPV is a virus that causes warts and increases the chance of cervical cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 are the primary causes of cervical cancer. If you have HPV, you may be at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
Women over the age of 65 with history of normal Pap smear results may be able to stop having the test in the future.
You should still get regular Pap smears based on your age, regardless of your sexual activity status. That’s because the HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active.
Here are the three reasons why getting an annual Pap smear is so important:
1. Detect precancerous cells
According to research, pap smears can’t detect cancer itself, but they can help detect abnormal and possibly precancerous cells. The results as listed below help a woman to know whether the cervical cells are normal or abnormal, which can help women seek out help before things get worse.
- Whether the sample was satisfactory
- Whether the sample was “within normal limits”
- Recommended follow-up care
2. Early treatment
When malignant or precancerous cells are found early, your doctor may be able to discover what is causing the abnormal cells and help stop the mutation before the cells turn cancerous. Early treatment of abnormal cells may help reduce the risk for cervical cancer as well as other reproductive health issues.
One of the best things a Pap smear can do is help prevent cancer before it starts by detecting precancerous cells early on. Detection and early treatment lead to cancer prevention, which may help save lives.
Having an annual Pap smear is the best way to help catch serious issues early on, before they become dangerous or untreatable.