Whether you’ve had a Pap smear before or this is your first time, you probably know that this screening tool is incredibly important for a woman’s health. A Pap smear allows your primary care physician to be able to analyze the cells of the cervix to look for possible signs of cancer or precancer. By simply scraping a few cells from the cervix during your annual exam we can catch cervical cancer early.
Pap smears should be performed every three years
By the time a woman turns 21 years old, she should start coming to us for a Pap smear. Most women will only need to get a Pap smear every three years; however, women who are at an increased risk for cervical cancer or women have had an abnormal Pap smear in the past many need to be tested more regularly. This is something that our gynecological team can discuss with you.
Some women can stop getting routine Pap smears once they reach 65 years old, but talk to your gynecologist first to make sure this is the right option for you.
Pap smears aren’t just for women who are sexually active
It’s important that all women begin getting screened for cervical cancer by 21 years old, regardless of whether they are sexually active or not. While many types of cervical cancer are caused by a sexually transmitted disease known as the human papillomavirus (HPV), this isn’t the only cause. It’s important to detect these cellular changes as soon as possible and the best way to do that is with a Pap smear.
Pap smears won’t detect STDs
It’s important to note that this medical screening is only used to detect abnormal cells within the cervix. It will not be able to diagnose or detect STDs including HPV. If you are concerned about STDs or would like to get tested for STDs, ask your primary care physician during your next visit.
Postpone your Pap smear if you have your period
While you may be able to get your Pap smear while menstruating it can sometimes skew the results, especially if you’re dealing with a heavy flow. If you do happen to get your period on the days leading up to your exam (or on the same day), give us a call to determine whether you can still come in for your Pap smear or whether you should reschedule.
If it’s time for your next Pap smear, we would be happy to schedule your annual visit.
Call Arlington Family Practice at (817) 277-6444