Did you know that about 13,000 women in America are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year? The disease doesn’t have signs or symptoms until it’s in the later stages and harder to treat, but with vaccination and screening, it’s preventable.
In recognition of January being National Cervical Health Awareness month, Bharat Gandhi, MD and Priya Gandhi, MD, MPH of Medinet Family Care Clinic in Houston and Sugar Land, Texas, want to help you understand why getting a Pap smear is so important to your health.
Read on to learn more about this life-saving screening and how we can help!
Cervical Health Awareness
Because it’s symptom-free in the early stages, it’s easy to forget about cervical cancer. That’s why Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. This offers an opportunity to consider how to protect yourself from cervical cancer and HPV (human papillomavirus), the virus that causes almost every case of cervical cancer.
It’s also the perfect time to schedule your cervical cancer screening. HPV is extremely common, present in nearly half of men and 40% of women ages 18-59. HPV infections can cause cervical cancer, which has no signs or symptoms until later stages when it’s harder to treat. That’s why routine screenings are essential.
What is a Pap smear and do I need one?
A Pap smear is a simple procedure that looks for abnormal changes in the cells of your cervix, the lower, narrow end of your uterus located at the top of your vagina. Your doctor at North Atlanta Women’s Care collects cells with a quick swab and then sends them off for laboratory analysis.
Don’t skip this important preventive measure for women 65 and younger!
Starting at 21, every woman should get a preliminary Pap smear. Depending on your history and the results of your first screening, you may get re-tested annually or every three years.
You might think if you aren’t sexually active or if you’re in a monogamous relationship that you don’t need a screening. Think again. Pap smears can detect precancerous cells, allowing your doctor to remove any abnormal cells before they turn into life-threatening cervical cancer.
What if my results are abnormal?
If your Pap smear results are abnormal, it isn’t cause for panic. Over 3 million women receive abnormal results every year, but less than 1% are diagnosed with cervical cancer. There are many reasons your results might be abnormal, including:
- Testing positive for HPV
- Inflamed or infected cervix
- Abnormal, but benign, cervical growths, like polyps
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Having sex before your test
- Using tampons before your test
- Cervical dysplasia or other causes of abnormal cells
If you do have abnormal results, your doctor will likely request additional tests to get to the root cause of your abnormal cells. And if you haven’t had the HPV vaccine, she may recommend you receive it if you’re eligible.
Have you had your Pap smear?
Getting a Pap smear is an important part of your preventive health care. A Pap smear can identify cervical cancer and other troublesome issues. In other words, this quick, routine test can save your life.
If it’s time to schedule your Pap smear or if you’re unsure whether you need a screening, book your appointment online. You can also send our team a message with any questions, concerns, or comments on our contact page.