Pap smears are tests used to detect cancerous cells on the cervix that can result from human papillomavirus (HPV). Every year, about 35,900 new cases of cancer are caused by HPV.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In the general population and immunocompromised people, it can cause a variety of cancers, including cervical, oral, and throat cancers.
Our team at Casa de Salud, led by Dr. Afshin Akhavan, performs Pap smears on a regular basis to catch complications early on. Learn more about what a Pap smear test entails and how often you should get tested.
What happens at the office
Before the test, you’ll be asked to undress and put on a robe. You lie down on the exam table and put your feet in stirrups, then Dr. Akhavan gently inserts a speculum into your vagina. This device enables him to access your cervix and introduce a spatula or brush that collects cells from inside your cervix.
Although the procedure may be slightly uncomfortable, it is rarely painful, and is over very quickly. Once Dr. Akhavan collects the cervical cells, he sends them to a lab for testing.
You may experience some spotting after the procedure, so you may want to bring a thin pad with you to put on afterward. Otherwise you can go about your normal day after your Pap smear appointment.
Who is at risk for HPV and HPV complications?
You can contract HPV even if you have only one partner, but the risk your increases if you have multiple partners or engage in intercourse with a high-risk partner (someone who has multiple partners).
Many people carry HPV and don’t experience any symptoms because their immune system is able to fight it.
Factors that may increase your risk for developing cancer from HPV include the following:
- Low platelet count
- Smoking cigarettes
Your risk also goes up if you take blood pressure drugs or immunosuppressants, or if you’ve used birth control pills for prolonged periods of time.
Even if you aren’t exposed to any of the risk factors mentioned above, getting a Pap smear is still a good idea, as air pollution and chronic stress can also dampen the immune system.
Know you’re well with a Pap smear
It’s recommended you get a Pap smear every 2-3 years starting at age 21 or earlier if you’ve begun engaging in sexual activity. An HPV test is also performed along with a Pap test in some cases. A Pap smear is still recommended for women who’ve had the HPV vaccine, because HPV has about 100 strains, and the vaccine doesn’t include all the strains.
Your provider at Case de Salud can recommend a cervical cancer screening schedule that works best for your needs. To protect your health by getting tested, contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Downtown & Adams Normandie, Los Angeles, California.