Pap smears, also known as pap tests, are screening procedures used to detect infections, inflammation, and cancerous cells in the cervix. However, they aren’t used to detect STDs.
During a pap smear at Casa de Salud, you lay down as one of our specialists introduces a brush through your vagina to reach your cervix. They quickly swab over your cervix to get a sample of your cells, then they place the cell sample in a petri dish before sending it to a lab.
Pap smears can be a bit uncomfortable, but they don’t cause pain. Some patients may experience some mild cramping afterward, but these symptoms go away on their own a few days after the test.
From our specialists at Casa De Salud, here’s everything you need to know about determining how often you should get pap smears.
Understanding how often you may need a pap smear
You can expect to have pap smears throughout your life, starting with the age at which you become sexually active until the age of 65. Pap smears are not necessary for women who’ve had their uterus removed unless they’re used only for detecting endometrial cancers.
In the past, pap smears were recommended yearly. However, now specialists recommend one every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 29. Women past the age of 30 are advised to have pap smears every five years.
When pap smears are recommended more often
Pap smears are recommended more often for patients who suffer from conditions or take medications that suppress the immune system, which makes them more susceptible to cancer.
Our specialists may recommend more frequent tests if any of the following apply to you:
- You’ve undergone chemotherapy or radiation
- You’re HIV positive
- You’ve had a pap smear that showed precancerous cells
- You were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
- You take immunosuppressants regularly
Poorly controlled diabetes and poor nutrition can also lead to a weakened immune system.
Get peace of mind by getting tested
Pap smears can be life-saving. With them, our specialists can detect cancerous and precancerous cells early on.
However, not all abnormal results are a sign of cancer. If your test does suggest abnormal cells, our specialists may recommend another pap smear or a biopsy.
Sometimes, a test can also be inconclusive, meaning you may need to repeat the test because the lab couldn't analyze the cells properly.
Find out if you’re healthy by contacting us to schedule an appointment at one of our two Los Angeles, California, offices.