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Why and When Is a Pap Smear Recommended?

Named after medical researcher Dr. George Papanicolaou, who introduced it to the medical world in 1943, the Pap smear has saved countless women from the consequences of invasive cervical cancer. Technological advances since the 1940s have made this test even more reliable at detecting precancerous or cancerous changes in your cervix.     

The Women's Health Services in Arlington, Texas offer gynecologic visits that may include a Pap smear. Learn what this team of OBGYN specialists recommends regarding when and why Pap tests should be part of your exam.

Why would I need a Pap smear?   

The American Cancer Society notes that at one time cervical cancer was the most common cancer death for women in the United States. That’s no longer true, thanks partly to our ability to detect and remove precancerous or early cancerous cells before the disease can spread. The Pap smear, a lab assessment of a small sampling of cervical cells obtained during an in-office pelvic exam, makes this early life-saving detection possible.

Cervical cancer screening these days may include HPV (human papillomavirus) testing. This testing screens for HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer. Though an HPV infection doesn’t mean you have or will develop cancer, it significantly increases your risk. If you have a positive HPV test, you’ll likely require annual screening until the infection clears.   

When should I have a Pap smear?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends a screening Pap smear based on factors such as your age and health history. For instance, they recommend a screening study every three years from age 21-29 and every five years from age 30-65.

However, you may require more frequent studies if you’ve previously had an abnormal Pap smear, a history of cervical cancer, or a positive HPV test. During your visit, your MyDoc Urgent Care provider reviews your history to determine a schedule for cervical cancer screening that best fits your needs.

Otherwise, general ACOG guidelines for screening Pap smears and HPV testing are as follows:

Women over 65 can usually stop having routine Pap smears, provided their last three studies have been negative. However, the ACOG recommends you continue with screening Pap smears even if you’ve had an HPV vaccination since not all cervical cancers are related to HPV.

Do I need a women’s health exam every year?

The ACOG recommends a women’s health exam yearly, even if you aren’t due for cervical cancer screening. Additional topics covered during an annual exam at Women's Health Services include:

During a women’s health exam, your Women's Health Services physician also focuses on your blood pressure, heart health, and other issues that affect your overall well-being.

Visit Women's Health Services today for outstanding medical care that’s always patient-focused.

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