A pap smear, also known as a pap test, is a screening tool that detects cancerous or precancerous cells in your cervix. Pap tests are a routine part of women’s health care, and having them at the recommended times is one of the best things you can do to prevent cervical cancer. At Life Care for Women in Gilbert, Arizona, Dr. Linda Sodoma provides a complete range of preventive gynecological screenings, including pap smear tests, to patients in the Phoenix metropolitan area. If you’re due for a pap test, call or book your appointment online today.
Dr. Sodoma performs a pap smear test to check your cervix, located where the lower part of your uterus opens into your vagina, for abnormal cells.
Although cellular changes in your cervix may be an early indication of cervical cancer, finding abnormal cells before they turn cancerous almost always leads to successful early treatment. The pap test is, therefore, an essential tool in cervical cancer prevention.
A pap test is usually done during a routine pelvic exam and is recommended every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 65.
Starting at the age of 30, Dr. Sodoma may advise you to continue to have a pap test every three years, or she may recommend that you begin having a pap test, along with an HPV screening test, every five years.
If you have certain risk factors for cervical cancer, Dr. Sodoma will likely advise you to have more frequent pap smears. If you’ve had a previous pap smear that showed precancerous cells, for example, or if you’ve had a previous diagnosis of cervical cancer, repeating the pap test more frequently is a good idea.
If you have a weakened immune system, either from chemotherapy or an HIV infection, you may also need more frequent pap smears. After going over your medical history, Dr. Sodoma will let you know if you have a higher than normal risk for cervical cancer.
As you lie on the exam table, Dr. Sodoma uses a speculum to open your vagina so that the cervix is visible. Using a special stick or brush, Dr. Sodoma scrapes a few cells from the surface and inside of your cervix, which she then places on a slide and for testing in a lab.
Although a pap smear can be slightly uncomfortable, it shouldn’t feel painful.
If you’ve reached the age of 65 and you’ve never had an abnormal pap test, Dr. Sodoma may agree that you no longer need pap smear screenings.
Likewise, if you’ve had your uterus and ovaries surgically removed in a total hysterectomy that was done to treat a noncancerous condition, you may also be able to stop having routine pap smear tests.
If, however, you had a hysterectomy to treat a precancerous or cancerous condition, Dr. Sodoma will probably advise you to continue getting pap tests.