To Pap or Not to Pap?
When should I get a Pap Smear and what should I expect?
What is a pap smear?
A pap smear, also called a pap test, is a procedure to test women for cervical cancer. It involves collecting cells from the cervix (the lower and narrow end of the uterus), on top of the vagina. It is a routine, important test, with cervical cancer being the second leading cancer site among women. Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted infection caused the oncogenic type of Human papilloma virus (HPV).
How often should I get a pap smear?
The pap smear is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. In general, doctors recommend beginning pap testing at age 25 or earlier once the woman has become sexually active, and the patient and her doctor can decide how often it is done or repeated in the course of the woman’s life. Ideally, a woman should get one every 3 years between the ages of 25 to 65.
If a woman has risk factors for cervical cancer, the pap test may be done more often regardless of age. These risk factors include the following:
- A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a previous pap smear which shows precancerous lesion
- Exposure to diethylbesterol (DES) before birth
- HIV infection
- Weakened immune system
- A history of smoking
Are there exceptions?
There are some situations wherein a woman can stop having pap smears. An example is when a woman has undergone a total hysterectomy or a surgical removal of the uterus for a non-cancerous lesion. Women older than 65 years old who have previous negative tests negative for cervical cancer no longer need them.
Prepare for your pap smear and prevent cervical cancer
When you are going for a pap test, avoid douching or having sexual intercourse for 48 hours prior to the test. Avoid using vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, clams and jellies at least two (2) days before the exam.
Cervical cancer can be prevented with the HPV vaccine or detected early with regular pap smears. Women are advised to see their gynecologists for a detailed discussion on preventing and detecting cervical cancer.
- 2020 American Cancer Society Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
About The Expert
DR. CHRISTIA PADOLINA, OB-GYN
Dr. Christia S. Padolina is the president of the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecological Society (POGS) Foundation Inc. It is the premiere organization of obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide.
It was a dream come true for her to become a physician. Her mother was sickly and she had so much expectations on the healthcare system being on the other side of the equation. She is a graduate of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. It was there that she realized that she wanted to become an obstetrician Gynecologist. She does not mind waking up in the wee hours of the morning as she finds delivering babies exhilarating.
Her subspecialty in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University of New Mexico in USA paved the way for better maternal care. She is locally and internationally known advocate for safe motherhood.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.