A Pap test is a procedure performed by a doctor to screen for cervical cancer. During the test, the doctor collects cells from the cervix and then examines them to see if there are any cancerous or precancerous cells.
Pap smears are important because they can help to identify cells that may have been altered by HPV. HPV is a primary cause of cervical cancer, with over 40 different strains that can be transmitted sexually. While HPV cannot be detected itself, doctors can see structural changes in cells caused by the virus and can begin treatment for cervical cancer it begins to develop.
Women who are over the age of 21 should get a Pap smear on a regular basis, typically every three years until they are 30. At that point, if the results have been normal, the doctor may reduce the Pap smear to once every five years. Women age 65 and older who have always had normal Pap screenings might be able to stop getting them entirely. Women's Health Group works with each patient to determine the best plan.
Women who have certain risk factors, such as being HIV positive, chemotherapy treatment, or an organ transplant, will most likely need more frequent testing because of their increased risk of infection.
If a woman's pap smear comes back abnormal, it does not automatically mean that she has cancer. However, it might mean that she has some precancerous cells in her cervix. The doctor may perform a colposcopy to get a better look at the vaginal and cervical tissue to determine a diagnosis. In many cases, they may simply recommend increasing the frequency of pap smears to make sure none of the cells become cancerous.
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