Learn why Pap smears matter as part of cervical cancer screening and prevention
Many women remember when a Pap smear was a routine part of their annual wellness exam.
Current guidelines only require Pap smears every three years now for most women, and this may confuse patients or make them wonder if the screening test is still necessary. Our Austin OBGYNs are here to explain why pap smears matter.
Early detection is the main reason Pap smears matter
The main reason Pap smears matter is that early detection saves lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer deaths in women have declined significantly in the past 40 years thanks to women receiving regular Pap smears.
This test allows our Austin OBGYNs to scrape cells from a woman’s cervix for investigation in a lab. Precancerous or abnormal cells can take between three to seven years to develop into cancerous cells.
If our physicians can find abnormalities or cancer early, they can begin to monitor abnormalities or start early treatment which has a much higher success rate than treatment at the late stages of cancer.
Cervical cancer screening is still one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer
Women can take steps to prevent cervical cancer like getting the HPV vaccination between the ages of 9 and 26. This vaccine helps protect women against HPV, or human papilloma virus, the virus that puts women at risk for cervical cancer.
However, even with the vaccine, women need to have cervical cancer screening. For most women, this is a combination of the HPV test and a Pap smear. The HPV test screens women for the HPV virus, particularly the types that are likely to cause precancers and cancers of the cervix.
Women can help lower their risk of getting cervical cancer
Our Austin OBGYNs recommend that women reduce their risk of getting cervical cancer in the following ways.
- Seek out the HPV vaccine if eligible.
- Get regular Pap smears or Pap smears and HPV tests together.
- Get the HPV test alone if you are under age 30 or over age 65.
- Take steps to prevent STI’s, including using condoms and limiting the number of partners.
Our Austin OBGYNs know that the current screening guidelines for cervical cancer can be confusing. We encourage patients to ask questions. Also, don’t forget that screening saves lives and that is why Pap smears matter to us and to our patients. Contact us for an appointment.