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The Importance of Pap Smears

Well-woman visits with your gynecologist are important for maintaining your health, as well as checking for any potential problems. A Pap smear exam should be a part of your scheduled visits. Some women may find it a bit uncomfortable, but the test is important to your overall health. 

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is generally done during a pelvic exam and only takes a few minutes. Your doctor will begin by inserting a speculum into the vagina. This will allow the doctor access to swab cells from the cervix. The cells will be analyzed for signs of cancer, or cells that have the potential to become cancerous. The Pap exam may also include a test for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection that increases the risk of cervical cancer.

How often is a Pap smear needed?

How frequently you need a Pap smear will depend on your age, health history and results from your previous exam. It is generally recommended for women to begin getting a Pap smear at 21 years of age. If there’s a history of cancer in your family, more frequent Pap tests may be recommended. Underlying medical conditions or circumstances that may increase your risk for cervical cancer would also require more frequent Pap smears to monitor your health, or for these to begin at an earlier age.  Those conditions or circumstances may include but are not limited to an HIV infection, history of smoking or a weakened immune system.

Why is a Pap smear important?

There aren’t symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer, therefore a Pap smear is the best chance of detecting cervical cancer early. Catching it early gives patients the advantage for successful treatment by fighting it early and preventing it from spreading. Catching any signs of HPV early is also crucial. 

If your Pap smear result is abnormal, do not immediately worry. An abnormal result does not mean you have cancer, but your healthcare provider will run some additional tests.  And remember, it’s most always best to deal with potential issues sooner rather than later. 

If you are due for a Pap smear or if you have any questions about the procedure, please give us a call at 307-634-5216. We’re here to help you make the best decision for your circumstances. 

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