January Is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January Is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month — about 13,000 women in the United States are treated for cervical cancer each year. However, the disease is virtually always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap smear and HPV tests).

What is the cervix you ask? The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. The cervix is two inches long and has a tubular shape. Its main function is to widen during childbirth to allow for the passage of the baby.

The cervix can be vulnerable to several health conditions — such as dysplasia, polyps, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Unfortunately, these conditions rarely present symptoms in the early stages. Therefore, a regular Pap smear from a gynecologist is vital — contact your OB/GYN near me today.

What Is A Pap Test?

Let's talk about Pap smears. A Pap smear — also known as a Pap test — is a screening procedure that checks for cervical cancer, provided by your OB/GYN near me. Detecting cervical cancer early gives you a much higher chance at a cure.

During a Pap smear, cells are very gently scraped from the opening of the cervix and examined under a microscope for abnormal growth. This can be slightly uncomfortable, but should not cause any long-term pain. A Pap smear test is done at your OB/GYN near me or doctor's office — visit our Gwinnett OB/GYN clinic today.

Why Do You Need A Pap Test?

Getting a Pap test can be life-saving. Starting at age 21, women should get Pap tests every 3 years. A routine Pap smear test diagnoses cervical cancer in its early stages. You can prevent any precancerous disease from progressing to cervical cancer.

How Often Do You Need A Pap Test At Your OB/GYN Near Me?

How often a Pap test is needed is determined by various factors — the main ones are your age and risk of cervical cancer. Recommendations can vary and should be individualized for each woman. For example, if you have a history of precancerous, a compromised immune system, or cancerous lesions.

Age and Pap Smear Test Frequency

  • Less than 21 years old — No Pap test needed.
  • 21-29 years old — A Pap test every 3 years.
  • 30-65 years old — A Pap test and HPV test every 5 years is preferred; however, a Pap smear alone every 3 years is also acceptable.
  • 65 years and older — You may no longer need a Pap test; talk to your OB/GYN near me to help determine your needs.

What Do My Pap Test Results Mean?

Your Pap test results can either be normal or abnormal. Be aware. If you get an abnormal Pap test result, this usually does not mean that you have cancer. It often means a minor cervical concern.

Moreover, your Pap test results may not mean you have a problem. Pap test results vary depending on your health history, age, and the method used for the Pap test. Ask your OB/GYN near me what your Pap test results mean for you — don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions.

Seldom, but from time to time, a Pap test has a false-positive result. This means you don't have a cervical problem, even though the test results show you do. Your OB/GYN near me near me can do another Pap test to confirm the initial results.

What Affects My Pap Test Results?

The best time to schedule a Pap test is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your last period. While a Pap smear can still be performed, it is recommended not to have the test while you're menstruating. Additionally, for the most accurate test results, avoid having sex or using tampons, vaginal creams, deodorant sprays, douches, contraceptive foams, and jellies for 2 days before your exam.

Schedule A HPV Test Along With Your Pap Test

Depending on your age, and a few other factors, your tissue samples collected from the Pap test can also be tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Infection with some types of HPV may put you at risk for cervical cancer.

Pap smears are screening tests, which means that an abnormal pap smear doesn't give a diagnosis of precancerous cells or cancerous cells. If you have an abnormal Pap test result, your OB/GYN or healthcare provider will most likely order an HPV test, among others.

HPV is a virus that causes warts and increases the chance of cervical cancer. If you have HPV, you may have an increased risk of cervical cancer. It is recommended to get regular HPV and Pap smears tests regularly based on your age, regardless of your sexual activity status. That is because the HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active.

These include:

  • A small tissue sample is taken from the cervix and looked at under a microscope. This also may be done during the colposcopy.
  • The cervix and vagina are looked at with a microscope called a colposcope, which magnifies any abnormal areas.
  • Endocervical curettage. Cells are taken from the cervix's opening with a spoon-shaped tool and then looked at under a microscope. This may be done during your colposcopy.

About Gwinnett OB/GYN

We give every patient the complete care and comfort. Our board-certified doctors and nurse practitioners are committed to our patients. As one of the best obstetrics and gynecology practices, we provide the best possible care by creating trusted and safe environments for all women. Visit our Gwinnett OB/GYN clinic today — learn about us here.

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