How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life

A gynecological exam is a key part of a well-woman exam. You want to know that your reproductive organs are working properly and are in good health. One of the most important screening exams for women is the Pap smear.

A Pap smear checks to see if your cervix — the opening to the vagina — is healthy or if abnormal cells are present. Getting a Pap smear at the recommended intervals helps ensure early diagnosis and treatment if there are any abnormal changes in your cervix.

As with other health conditions, early detection and treatment can save your life. At Danvers Family Doctors, P.C., if we find any abnormal cells at an early stage, before they become cancer cells, we can easily remove them. If this happens to you, having a Pap smear can be a lifesaving exam.

Lifesaving benefits of Pap smears

When it comes to diagnosing and treating cervical cancer, the medical profession has come a long way. This type of cancer used to be the No. 1 cause of cancer death in women. It isn’t even in the top 10 types of cancer in women in the United States any longer.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a killer. Half of the women with cervical cancer have never had a Pap smear or haven’t had one within the recommended interval. Those women who are screened at regular intervals have a higher cure rate than women whose cancers have grown to the point where they have physical symptoms.

How often you should get a Pap smear  

Medical advice has changed regarding how often women should get a Pap smear. In the past, most doctors advised annual Pap tests. But abnormal cells in the cervix do not immediately turn cancerous. The lag time between abnormal cells and full-blown cervical cancer can be up to 10 years. Physicians say that screening every three years is adequate and results in fewer false positives on the test.

Every woman 21 and older who has been sexually active — even once — should get a Pap smear. If you are between ages 21 and 54, once you have had two normal Pap smears consecutively, you should get a Pap smear every three years until you are 65 years old. Once you turn 65, your doctor advises you whether you need to continue having the exam.

If you’re 30 or older and don’t want to have the test every third year, you may opt for co-testing, which includes a Pap smear and a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years.

What you can expect during a Pap smear

At Danvers Family Doctors, we perform a thorough gynecological exam, a part of which is the Pap smear, at the recommended intervals. The test only takes a minute or two. We insert a speculum into your vagina to open it up in order to see the cervix. We take a few sample cells and send them to a lab, where they’re examined under a microscope.

Call or book an appointment online today with our team at Danvers Family Doctors, P.C., led by Dr. Subroto Bhattacharya. We provide expert treatment to ensure women’s health, including the lifesaving Pap smear.

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