How Frequently Do I Need to Get a Pap Smear?

It can be a challenge to know how frequently you need to have a Pap smear , but it is an extremely important test when it comes to women’s health. Pap smears can help your doctor find any potential issues before they become serious. The test helps doctors identify any abnormal or precancerous cells, which can be an early sign of cervical cancer, HPV, or other problems.

The procedure itself is virtually painless, whether you go to a gynecology office in Houston or have it done by your regular physician. The important thing is to have the test done often enough to identify problems quickly, when they can be most easily treated. If you’re not sure what happens during a Pap test, we encourage you to contact Women’s Healthcare Associates at our Houston, TX, office. We’ll be glad to tell you more.

General Pap test guidelines

The first question to answer when it comes to Pap testing is what age you should begin having them. As with anything, the best guideline is to consult with your physician, but most women are advised to start testing no later than age 21. You can have them done by your regular doctor, or if you prefer, you can go to a gynecologist.

Generally, Pap smears don’t have to be done annually. Women aged 21 to 65 can schedule them every three years if they have has normal results from the previous test. If you are 30 years of age or older, you can consider getting them done every five years, but only if they are combined with a test for HPV. Once a woman reaches the age of 65, regular Pap tests can be discontinued if results have been normal.

An abnormal Pap test may result in a more frequent testing schedule for women of any age. Please consult with your physician or gynecologist’s office to find out how often you should go for testing after an abnormal test.

Other things can come into play when it comes to how often a woman should be tested. Certain risk factors, such as HIV, organ transplantation, and chemotherapy, may require a change in Pap test frequency. Again, a physician is in the best position to evaluate these individual situations.

Screening saves lives

It’s important to know how often you should go for a Pap smear. Regular testing can save lives, as this test finds abnormal cells and precancerous cells easily—and early. It also bears mention that getting an abnormal Pap test result doesn’t mean you have cancer: It simply means some of the cells that were collected are not normal cells. You may need to be retested, or your doctor might want to consult with you in person to go over the results.

If you need more information about when you should get a Pap smear, please don’t hesitate to contact Women’s Healthcare Associates for additional clarification. We’re always happy to help you figure out when you should schedule your next appointment.

Call to learn more about Pap smears.

Your PAP Came Back Abnormal. Here’s What You Need to Know!

As a general rule, not hearing from your doctor after a medical test is usually a good sign. No news is good news, right? So, it’s definitely nerve wracking when your OB-GYN’s office calls to tell you that your PAP smear was abnormal.

Now, there’s no need to start writing a will and preparing for the worst just yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 3 million women will receive unclear or abnormal PAP results this year, but only 10,000 of those cases will actually indicate cervical cancer. So before panic sets in, here are some things you should know about abnormal PAP smears and what you need to do next.

“Abnormal” simply means change

When a PAP smear comes back abnormal, it simply means that cell changes were found on your cervix. However, those changes do not necessarily point to cancer. The cells are “abnormal” because they are not dying at the end of their usual life span or are dividing unusually.

Potential causes of abnormal cervical cells

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Most abnormal PAP results are caused by the sexually transmitted infection (STI) known as HPV. This infection is so common that almost every sexually active human will get at least one strain of it. In most cases, your body will clear an HPV infection on its own within 2 years. The strains to watch out for are 16 and 18. It generally takes 10-15 years for your cells to go from abnormal to cancerous because of HPV.

Other sexually transmitted infections

Some STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause inflammation in your cervical cells, which makes them look abnormal. Fortunately, these STIs are treatable with antibiotics, and you can protect yourself from contracting them in the first place by wearing condoms during sex.

Vaginal inflammation

When the delicate pH balance of the vagina is out of whack, you can develop yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. These vaginal inflammations weaken your natural defenses and allow bacteria to grow in much higher amounts. Over-the-counter creams, home remedies, or anti-biotics will get you back on track.

Pregnancy, menopause, or smoking can also have an effect on cervical cells.

What now?

Your doctor will most likely recommend that you come back for a follow-up appointment to determine the cause of the cell changes. During your appointment, the gynecologist will perform a colposcopy by taking a closer look at your vagina through a specialized magnifying glass. They may also take a biopsy and send the sample off to a lab.

How to get rid of precancerous cells

If your abnormal cells turn out to be precancerous, there are several things your doctor can do to get rid of them once and for all.

  • Laser ablation – burn the cells with a laser

  • Cryotherapy – freeze the cells with a cold probe

  • Diathermy – uses electric current to snip away abnormal cervical tissue

  • Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) – similar to diathermy

  • Cone biopsy – surgically remove a cone-shaped area of your cervix

  • Hysterectomy – remove your uterus entirely

Whether you are due for a PAP smear or you want to find out more information about what your abnormal Pap smear results mean for our future, contact the caring and compassionate doctors at Women’s Healthcare Associates today!

Why Your Pap Smear Is Abnormal [INFOGRAPHIC]

Women should get yearly Pap smears starting at 21 years old or within three years of becoming sexually active. A Pap smear is a screening that can find abnormal cells or dysplasia in the cervix. Having regular Pap smears can increase the chances of early detection. If your Pap smear comes back abnormal, it’s natural to worry, but educating yourself with this #Infographic can help give you peace of mind.