What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap Smear is a random sampling of cells from the opening of the uterus (known as the cervix). These samples are sent to a lab to help in identifying potential abnormalities. These abnormalities can include pre-cancer, cancer and many others.
How often do I need a Pap?
This is a common question. There are many misconceptions about this topic because recommendations have changed in recent years. Most doctors used to recommend a yearly pap for all women aged 21 years and over. This is now false information.
21-30 – Once every 3 years.
After 30 or if tested positively for HPV – every 5 years.
After 65 or after a hysterectomy for benign reasons – Discontinue paps.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is sexually transmitted, and causes the majority of cervical cancers. There are different strains of HPV, all of which come with different risks of causing cervical cancer.
HPV is a very common ailment because it can exist without symptoms and is often spread before the carrier realizes that they have it. This is why paps are important.
Attention: Even though paps are only recommended every 3-5 years, we still strongly recommend a yearly exam to rule out any gynecologic problems, to assist in identifying potential pelvic masses and to check-up on mammography.
Keep in mind that these are minimum recommendations. Many patients elect to participate in a yearly pap. This is an extra precaution that you should discuss with your doctor. A pap will nearly always be given when requested.
What happens if my pap comes back with irregular findings?
In the event of irregular findings on a pap, we will take a closer look by performing a colposcopy, in which we look at the cervix with a microscope and take biopsies if necessary. This procedure will come with many options and communication with your doctor.
Learn more from Dr. George Barnett: