As women, we dread our yearly exam with our gynecologist. We know it is very important to go, but we try to avoid if possible. I can understand, because it’s not the most comfortable nor modest experience. For some, the last pap smear they had may correlate to the age of their last child (who may now be 30, LOL) or it may have been last year. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, we all need to be aware of the importance of this test. As your friendly OBGYN, I would like to encourage and educate you all on the value of that dreaded pap smear.
Why should I be concerned?
Approximately 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. However, with widespread screening the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased more than 50% in the past 30 years.
How can I reduce/prevent my risk of cervical cancer?
GET TESTED!!! This involves having a screening pap smear with or without HPV testing.
A Pap smear test is the cervical cancer screening test that involves collecting cells from your cervix. These cells are examined using cytology by looking under a microscope for evaluation. The results will note if there are normal cells or any abnormal cells. If any abnormalities are detected, your gynecologist will discuss with you managment and treatment options to eradicate the abnormal cells.
When should I be tested?
I’m glad you asked!
Here are a few guidelines from the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP)
Under age 21: NO SCREENING NECESSARY!!
AGES 21-29: Cytology testing alone every 3 years
AGES 30-65: HPV and cytology “Cotesting” every 5 years (Preferred)
Cytology alone every 3 years (Acceptable)
Ages 65 and over: No screening following adequate negative prior screening.
What if I have had a hysterectomy?
Total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix): ou do not need additional cervical cancer screening as long as there is no history of cervical cancer or high grade dysplasia
Supracervical hysterectomy (removal of uterus only with cervix still intact): You will still need to receive cervical cancer screening per age appropriate guidelines
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations
HPV is a very common sexaully transmitted disease in the United States. Almost everyone who is sexually active will get an HPV infection at some point in life. Diseases caused by HPV are genital warts and cancer. At least 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, vagina, and mouth. That’s where the HPV vaccine comes in. This vaccine is proven to reduce risk of HPV related cancers by 99% especially if received before sexual activity. It is recommended starting at age 9 and approved up to age 45. This is not a mandatory vaccine, but does provide excellent benefit to reducing your risk of cervical cancer.
So, what should i do?
Duh, go see your gynecologist tomorrow… No just kidding. But I strongly urge you to adhere to the guidelines and stay compliant with your doctor. An abnormal pap smear or HPV positive testing does not mean you have cancer. Your doctor will explain everything to you and how to treat these abnormalities. Early detection and prevention is key. We have come so far in decreasing cervical cancer by the screening modalities and that by itself is amazing. Take charge of your health and your body.
Dr. Jalarna J. Grant, MD
With a new year brings resolutions toward better health, new attitudes and new beginnings.
Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist PB#168