What are Pap smears?
Pap smears are a gynecological screening tool for cervical cancer. For the test, your provider at Yorktown Health collects a sample of cervical cells during a pelvic exam.
The collection of cells are sent to a lab to look for cell abnormalities that may indicate cervical cancer or risk of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death in women. However, since the addition of Pap smears to well-woman exams, death from cervical cancer has dramatically decreased.
When do I need a Pap smear?
When you need a Pap smear depends on your age, medical and family history, and results of previous Pap smears.
Not too long ago, women had Pap smears at every annual well-woman exam. However, thanks to advances in research and testing options, the team no longer needs to perform a Pap smear every year.
In general, it’s recommended that women get their first Pap smear at age 21 and then repeat the screening test every three years until age 30.
At age 30, your OB/GYN at Yorktown Health performs a Pap smear and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. During the HPV test, your doctor collects cervical cells to look for strains of HPV linked to cervical cancer.
If your Pap smear and HPV test are normal, you only need to repeat both screenings every five years up until you reach age 65. In some cases, your OB/GYN may suggest a different Pap smear schedule for you depending on your gynecological history.
What happens when a Pap smear is abnormal?
If you have an abnormal Pap smear, the team at Yorktown Health has you come back in for additional testing. An abnormal Pap smear means that unusual cells were found, but not necessarily cervical cancer.
Types of abnormal cells that require further investigation include:
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
- Squamous intraepithelial lesion
- Atypical glandular cells
- Squamous cell cancer
- Adenocarcinoma cells
To better understand the results of your abnormal Pap smear, the team performs an in-office colposcopy. During the procedure, they use a special magnifying device to closely evaluate the cervical tissue.
They also apply a solution that helps identify tissue abnormalities. They perform a biopsy to gather more information about the abnormal tissue and talk to you about the next steps.
If you have an abnormal Pap smear, the team may recommend more frequent screening tests.
Pap smears save lives. To schedule your screening test at Yorktown Health, call the office or book an appointment online today.