The Importance of Pap Tests

Friday, January 27, 2023

Pap tests save lives.

They’re the primary reason why cervical cancer deaths have dropped more than 50 percent in the U.S. over the past four decades.

But women must remain vigilant in receiving their pap tests for this trend to continue.

These tests can detect cancer at the earliest stages when the chances of successful treatment are at their highest. They can also spot cells that have the potential to turn cancerous over time, and stop the disease before it even has a chance to develop.

Pap tests, also called Pap smears, are relatively simple procedures. A trained specialist uses a small brush or scraper to collect cells from the cervix, which are then sent to a lab for testing.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pap tests should be part of every woman’s preventive health care routine.

Unless otherwise instructed by a female wellness specialist, most women should follow these guidelines from the college:

• Pap tests should be performed every three years for patients between the ages of 21 and 29.

• After age 30, the Pap test should be combined with the test that looks for HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Women should have the two tests every five years. Or women can continue screening with just the Pap test every three years.

• If you're over 65 or have had a hysterectomy, ask your doctor about Pap testing schedule that's right for you.

Women of any age with certain risk factors – including those who have previously had cervical cancer, are HIV-positive, or had a mother exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant - may need more frequent Pap tests.

You should consult your doctor to determine the screening program that works best for you. Call 863-680-7243 to schedule an appointment with a member of Watson Clinic’s OB-GYN department.


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