During your annual well-woman exam, you may receive a screening test known as a Pap test or Pap smear. This simple test takes just a few seconds and is over before you know it.
The Pap test may not seem very important, but it really is. In fact, thanks to the Pap test, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped dramatically in the US. This simple test not only catches cervical cancer early, when it is most treatable, but it can actually help prevent this potentially deadly cancer.
Here at Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology, we make sure you get all of the screening tests you need, including Pap tests. We’d like to share more about this important test.
Looking for abnormal cells
The Pap test takes a sample of the cells in your cervix, which is the opening of your uterus located at the top of your vagina. Your provider sends the sample to a laboratory, where it is analyzed to check for cellular abnormalities.
During your exam you may also receive an HPV (human papillomavirus) test. Most cervical cancers are caused by a type of HPV virus.
Preventing cervical cancer
Before the development of the Pap test, cervical cancer was one of the top causes of cancer deaths in American women, according to the American Cancer Society. But after doctors started using the test to check for the presence of abnormal cervical cells, the cervical cancer death rate fell dramatically.
In addition to catching cervical cancer early, Pap tests can find precancerous cellular changes. In most cases, these precancers can be removed so that they don’t become cancer.
If your Pap test shows abnormalities, your provider recommends follow-up testing to learn more about what’s going on with your cervical cells. If testing shows you have high-grade changes in your cells, your provider may suggest treatment that removes the abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
Some cellular changes don’t require treatment and go away on their own.
Do you need a Pap test?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the following schedule for Pap testing:
- Age 21-29: A Pap test every 3 years
- Age 30-65: A Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years OR a Pap test alone every 3 years (our practice is testing every 3 years)
- Over age 65: Depending on the results of previous Pap tests and your health history, you may no longer require Pap tests
Unfortunately, not all women have regular Pap testing. This puts them at risk for cervical cancer. If you haven’t kept up with your Pap tests and annual well-woman GYN checkups, you owe it to yourself to schedule an exam soon.
Comprehensive cervical cancer screening
Here at Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology in Albany, New York, we provide a full range of cervical screening services and other gynecology care, including Pap tests and HPV vaccines. To schedule an appointment with our knowledgeable, experienced providers, call 518-516-6726 or contact us by email.