A pap smear may seem like a serious inconvenience, and no woman likes to face a pelvic exam, especially when there is a speculum involved. Not only can the exam make you self-conscious, but it can also be extremely uncomfortable physically. The truth is, even though you live inside your own body, predicting your own vaginal health is impossible. This is why you should have a regular exam that is performed by your gynecologist.
Regular exams focus on preventative health and catching problems early, before they can do serious damage to your body. Too many women wait until they notice a problem, or until they are pregnant to schedule an examination. Waiting until you notice a problem with your vaginal health may become detrimental to your health.
There are many things your gynecologist Des Moines IA will test for during your pap smear, and one of them is a cervical cancer screening. Everyone knows that having a regular cervical cancer screening done is extremely important. Unfortunately, there is still a pretty significant debate about how often women should have a cervical cancer screening.
The current guidelines presented by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology, or ACOG, has offered their recommendations. They have outlined them in a straight forward manner for use by physicians and the general public:
- Women should begin having pap smears after they have become sexually active.
- Pap smears should begin no later than the age of 21 and should be completed bi-annually.
- After the age of 30, pap smears are recommended every three years, unless there is a reason to believe the immune system is weekend.
Testing for Women Over 30
Women over the age of 30 should have a pap smear every 3 years. During this pap smear, they should be tested for a number of different conditions, including:
A Traditional Pap Smear Will Test for
- Any cell changes from the last pap smear
- Any sign of cervical dysplasia
- Any sign of precancerous cells being present
- Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN
- Squamous intraepithelial lesions, or SIL
- Any abnormal growth on or around the cervix
If there is any abnormal cell growth indicated on the traditional pap smear, an HPV examination will be completed to determine your risk. During the HPV examination, your physician will run tests to better examine whether there are any unexplained lesions that were not addressed by the traditional pap smear.
What Happens if Pap Smear Results are Abnormal?
If your pap smear reveals abnormal results, your doctor will need to investigate further to determine the cause of the abnormal results. If the cause of the abnormal results are repeated, but cannot be determined, it will be recommended that you have the test done again within a six month time period.
Many physicians will try to determine the cause of abnormal results by completing a colposcopy. During this time, a very small tube attached to a mini-camera is inserted into the vaginal opening to allow your doctor a better view of the cervix. A small biopsy is taken for microscopic examination by to determine if the abnormal cell growth is truly abnormal, and whether it poses a serious risk to your health.