The importance of getting a regular pap smear


Each year, hundreds of thousands of women throughout the world die of an HPV infection leading to cervical cancer.

Pap tests, also known as pap smears, can detect signs of cervical cancer early, as well as abnormal cells which may lead to cervical cancer, so that treatment can be more effective and less invasive. To put it simply, taking a regular pap test can save your life.

To be honest, pap smears are uncomfortable, as the process involves directly sampling cells from the outer opening of the cervix. Medical professionals will then look at those cells and be able to detect any abnormalities. As uncomfortable as it may be, there’s no excuse to neglect your health,

and you will only need to receive one per year, at most, and perhaps fewer depending on your age.

The necessitated frequency of your pap tests will depend on a few factors…

Once a year

Women who are recommended to receive a yearly pap test include any woman under thirty years of age.

The recommended first pap test should take place around the age of 21, or whenever you have been sexually active for at least three years.

Other women who should receive a yearly test, regardless of age, would include any woman who is HIV positive, as HIV increases the risk of cervical cancer, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system thanks to organ transplant or chemotherapy, and anyone who’s mother was exposed to DES, or diethylstilbestrol, while pregnant.

Less Frequently

Anyone age thirty or older who has been receiving annual pap tests over the last three years should talk to their doctor about spacing out their pap tests between two or three years.

Women ages 65 and older who have had no abnormal pap test results over the last decade should talk with their doctor about the possibility of not having to receive pap tests anymore.

Whatever you do, don’t just stop showing up for pap tests. Unless your doctor specifically tells you that you are no longer at risk of cervical cancer and do not need any more pap tests, continue receiving regular tests.

Reducing the risk

A number of factors can actually increase the possibility of cervical cancer. To list a few…

  • You started having sex before you turned eighteen
  • You sleep with several partners
  • Your partner sleeps with several partners
  • You suffer from an immunocompromised condition

Of course, you can meet none of the above factors and still be at risk. Cervical cancer can happen to anyone, and you absolutely must get a regular pap smear to ensure that, if it happens to you, you can catch it and treat it in the early stages.

A message to parents: It’s important to be open and honest with your kids about sex. It may be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but even if you disapprove of your teens becoming sexually active, you should at least make sure that they’re prepared, that they know how to practice safe sex, and if you have a daughter who has been sexually active for three years or longer, that you take her in for a yearly pap test.

The initial embarrassment will be over as soon as you jump the hurdle of opening up the dialog about sex, and it is not worth the risk to keep your teens in the dark about safe sex and pap tests.