Screenings can find cancer sooner, when it is easier to treat. That’s why regular screenings are an important part of ongoing wellness care. For women, that often means having cervical cancer screenings during an annual wellness visit at the gynecologist.
The gynecology specialists with UMMC Women’s Care provide a full range of women’s health services and screenings in a warm, caring atmosphere.
A Pap test (or smear) is an examination of the cervix to detect any abnormal cells that may lead to cancer. A sample of cells is taken with a swab, and sent to a lab to determine if they are normal, precancerous, or cancerous. If the results come back as negative, that means no abnormal cells were found. Women who receive positive test results may require additional diagnostic testing.
It has been recommended that women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years, and women 30 to 65 who have had negative test results should be screened every 5 years. The frequency of screenings is undergoing change as we learn who the truly low and high risk patients are. Women may need screening less often or, rarely, more often. In either case, our gynecology specialists will be able to guide patients in what is best for their health.
Many cervical cancers develop after a woman is infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV, a commonly contracted sexually transmitted virus. HPV also can be a leading cause of anal, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers, and some oral cancers. Sexually active women can protect themselves by limiting the number of partners and asking their partners to use a condom every time. Women under 26 may also be eligible for an HPV vaccine.
Talk to your OB/GYN about screening recommendations and what you can do to protect yourself from HPV and cervical cancer.