5 Benefits of Routine Pap Smears

5 Benefits of Routine Pap Smears

Since the 1950s, Pap smears have been the gold-standard screening test for cervical cancer. Though most women no longer need a Pap smear every year, it’s still a very important routine screening test.

Our women’s health expert, Dr. Lena Speck Hopkins, considers the Pap smear one of the most important tools for detecting, treating, and preventing cervical cancer. 

Here, we want to share with you some of the benefits of your routine Pap smear.

1. Cervical cancer prevention

The purpose of the Pap smear is to screen for cervical cancer. Before the Pap smear became routine, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in women. 

During the Pap test, we collect cells from your cervix and send them to the lab for evaluation. This test is so sensitive it can identify cellular changes in your cervix before it turns into cancer. 

Because of improvements in the Pap smear and testing, women no longer need this screening test every year. Current guidelines recommend women start Pap smears at age 21 and repeat the test every three years until age 29.

At age 30, we perform a Pap smear and a human papillomavirus (HPV) screening. HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD), and certain strains of the virus increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. 

If both your Pap smear test and HPV test are negative, we only need to repeat your cervical cancer screening every five years up until you reach age 65. 

If you decide against the HPV screening, we continue your Pap smear every three years. 

2. Early detection of cervical cancer

Pap smears help us find changes in your cervical cells early. Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer, and you may not have any symptoms during the early stages.

Your routine Pap smear helps us find cervical cancer or precancerous cells during the early stages. When left undetected, cervical cancer spreads to other parts of the body, making it harder to treat. 

3. Better health outcomes

Finding changes in your cervical cells during your routine Pap smear means a better health outcome for you. Cervical cancer is easier to cure during the early stages. That’s why your routine Pap smear may save your life. 

4. More conservative treatments

A positive Pap smear doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. But it does put us on alert so we can perform a colposcopy to see what’s going on. 

The colposcopy is an in-office test that allows us to more closely examine your cervix and look for areas of abnormal tissue that we can biopsy. The results of your biopsy will determine what we do next.

If your results indicate low-grade changes, we take a wait-and-see approach and may recommend more frequent Pap smears. However, low-grade cervical cell changes rarely turn into cancer.

For moderate- to high-grade changes, we may recommend removing the abnormal cervical tissue. To remove this tissue, we may perform a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or a cold-knife biopsy. These are both minor surgical procedures.

5. Peace of mind

Most importantly, routine Pap smears give you peace of mind. We know many women find this test very uncomfortable, but it’s quick and painless and may prevent you from developing advanced cervical cancer.

How long has it been since your last Pap smear? If it’s been more than three years, it’s time. 

Call our office in Harlingen, Texas, to schedule your Pap smear today. 

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