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The Importance of Routine Pap Smears

The Importance of Routine Pap Smears

Some people are unaware that your ability to live through cancer, overall, starts with early detection. When detected early, cervical cancer is treatable and curable. A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a routine screening that detects cervical cancer. Pap smears are the most commonly used way to detect cervical cancer, and if you’re looking for a provider, we have you covered. 

Asrar Sheik, MD and Teofilo Vinluan, MD lead our team of warm professionals at Family Urgent Care in the Chicago, Illinois area. Dr. Sheik and Dr. Vinluan offer Pap smears as a part of comprehensive preventive care that you can get through our practice. Pap smears are an important tool in protecting your longevity, and their importance cannot be overstated. 

When do I need a Pap smear? 

Pap smears are performed exclusively on women for the purpose of finding any abnormal cells. Though Pap smears are typically provided to women who were born women, a small number of trans women who’ve had gender-affirming surgery may be at risk of developing cervical cancer. For this reason, it’s important for anyone with a cervix to receive regular Pap smears. 

Pap smears are a safe, reliable way of screening for cervical cancer. With an over 90% detection rate for cervical cancer, getting routine Pap smears can save you a great deal of time, money, and pain later. Women should plan to have their first Pap smear around age 21, and every three years through age 65. Part of the reason that Pap smears are important into your 60s is that the average age of a person with a new diagnosis is age 50.  

By your mid-30s, if you’ve never had any abnormal cells, nor a family history of cervical cancer, your provider may only require that you receive a Pap smear every five years. Or, your provider may decide that you do not need a Pap smear, but that a test for HPV will be enough to protect your reproductive health. After age 65, you may not need any more Pap smears. 

What happens during a Pap smear?

When you come in for your Pap smear, your provider will lay you on a special chair. You will undress from the waist down, and be given a blanket to cover yourself. Your feet will be guided to stirrups so that you can relax with your feet up and apart. Once you’re in a comfortable position, the doctor inserts a small, plastic tool called a speculum into your vagina. 

The speculum’s job is to hold your vaginal walls open, enabling the doctor to use the necessary tools to take a sample from your cervix, the entry point to your uterus. You will feel a little pressure, or the sensation of the tool used to take the sample from your uterus. Depending on your provider’s preference, they may use a tiny brush, which doesn’t hurt, or a long swab, which you may not even feel. 

After a sample is taken with the brush or swab, your doctor places it in a sterile container, and gently removes the speculum from your vagina. From there, you can get dressed. Your provider lets you know how long your test results will take, which is usually no longer than 72 hours. 

What does it mean if my results are abnormal? 

If your provider informs you that abnormal cells were detected, don’t panic — it doesn’t mean that you are living with cervical cancer, but that abnormal cells have been detected. 

The chief creator of abnormal cells in the cervix is HPV, a common virus that’s transmitted through genital contact. Some strains of HPV can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. As common as HPV is in the human population overall, we also know which strains put you at greatest risk of developing cervical cancer. 

Abnormal Pap smears may require more frequent screenings. Instead of once every three years, as is typically recommended, your provider may want you to return for a Pap smear one year after your abnormal Pap test. Keeping a close eye on abnormal Pap smears are integral to reducing your risk of developing cervical cancer. 

I’m ready to get my cervical cancer screening. 

This year, an estimated 14,480 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and approximately 4200 deaths are expected to occur as a result of cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer is treatable and curable if detected early. If the time for your next Pap smear is coming soon, call one of our offices in either Schererville, Indiana, or Chicago, or book online with us today.

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