Pap smears are part of the reason fewer women die from cervical cancer. A quick and painless swipe of cervical cells examined under a microscope can prevent cervical cancer or find it early when the chances of successful treatment are high.
At Innovative Women’s Care in Las Vegas, Nevada, board-certified OB/GYN Marguerite Brathwaite, MD, FACOG, wants to ensure that women stay on top of their Pap smears. This test is designed to detect abnormal changes in cervical cells.
As a result, Dr. Brathwaite can remove abnormal cells at high risk of becoming cancerous or refer you for treatment if cancerous cervical cells are detected. Pap smears help to detect cervical cancer at the earliest stages before it has had a chance to spread. Here’s what you should know about Pap smear screening.
Pap smears are a vital part of well-woman care. Like many cancers, cervical cancer rarely causes symptoms until it has advanced and either grown large or invaded other areas. By then, it is more difficult to treat successfully.
The American Cancer Society estimates 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer in 2022. This number is down significantly compared with past decades, thanks to women accessing Pap smears.
In the past, experts recommended yearly Pap tests. As researchers learn more about cervical cancer, these recommendations have changed.
We now know that two high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer, and cervical cancer begins with dysplasia, a precancerous condition characterized by abnormal growth of cervical cells.
This means cervical cancer is usually gradual, and there is an opportunity to detect it before it becomes cancer.
For this reason, experts now recommend that women begin getting Pap smears at age 21 and, if they’re normal, repeat them every three years until the age of 30.
Once you reach 30, if your Pap smears are normal, you can switch to testing every five years. Your provider will discuss treatment options if abnormal cells are found and will recommend an interval for repeat testing. You will need to test yearly if abnormal cells are found.
Once you reach the age of 65, you only need to test if you have concerning symptoms or if your doctor recommends it directly.
While there have been shifts in screening guidelines, Pap smears are still a crucial part of staying healthy. If it’s your first Pap smear, you may fear that Pap smears are painful or uncomfortable.
A Pap test involves taking a small sample of your cervical cells to view under a microscope. Dr. Brathwaithe uses a speculum to see the cervix and, with a tiny spatula, scrapes a sample of cervical cells to send to the lap. It doesn’t hurt and is over before you know it. The sample is sent to the lab, and Dr. Brathwaite contacts you with the results and any next steps.
Pap smears are the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer. If you’re due for your Pap screening, give our team a call at 702-936-4027 to schedule a visit with Dr. Brathwaite. She can also answer any questions or concerns you may have. Our team is devoted to helping women live full and healthy lives.