Everything You Need To Know About Pap Tests And When To Schedule Them

As a woman, it can be hard to find time for yourself. Between work, friends, family, and the responsibilities of life, it’s easy to forget to make time for you. But staying healthy means taking time for yourself.

Annual well-woman exams are a time to check in with your health and overall well-being. At your annual exam, you’ll receive tests that can be life-saving, including a Pap test. Pap tests screen for cervical cancer — and like many cancers, early detection is critical to successfully beating it.

Pap tests check for cervical cancer

Your Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is a routine exam that’s typically done alongside a pelvic exam. Pap tests and HPV, or human papillomavirus, tests often go hand-in-hand. HPV can increase your risk for cervical cancer.

When you get a Pap test, Dr. Davidson uses a speculum to see inside your vagina and reach your cervix. She takes a small sample of cells from your cervix and then removes the speculum. Pap tests take just a few minutes to complete, and your cell sample will be sent to a lab for evaluation. Pap tests usually aren’t painful, but you may feel some discomfort or pressure as the doctor inserts the speculum.

If your Pap test results are normal, it means that you show no signs of cervical cancer. In these cases, you’ll continue getting regular Pap smears to check that no cancer is developing. If your Pap test results are abnormal, it means that the cells the doctor collected aren’t normal. These results don’t immediately mean that you have cervical cancer, but you will need additional testing to determine the cause of the abnormal results.

Pap tests are simple, quick procedures, but getting them regularly can make a big difference for your health. Pap tests help your OB/GYN look for signs of cancer, and if they find precancerous or cancerous cells, early detection makes it easier to treat effectively.

Scheduling your Pap test

Most doctors recommend that women have their first Pap test around age 21. For women between the ages of 21 and 30, it’s a good idea to have a Pap test every three years. If you’re over age 30, you can talk with your doctor about combining your Pap test with an HPV test and doing both every five years.

In some cases, you may benefit from more frequent Pap tests. Women with previous abnormal Pap test results, precancerous cells, or a cervical cancer diagnosis might need Pap tests more often than every three years. You might be at-risk for cervical cancer if you have an HIV infection, weakened immune system, or a history of smoking.

At a certain point, some women may no longer need Pap tests. If you’ve had a total hysterectomy, you don’t have a cervix anymore, and you might be able to stop having Pap tests. Or, if you’re over 65 years of age, you can talk with your doctor about whether you can discontinue Pap testing.

It’s important to make sure you’re getting the exams you need to stay as healthy as possible. Whether you need a Pap smear this year or not, you should still schedule a well-woman appointment with your OB/GYN. Your annual exam is your time to check in with your health and get your questions answered.

To schedule your next Pap test, or if you have any questions about the exam, please contact our office by calling 317-893-3131. You can also an appointment through our online scheduling system.

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