How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life

Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of death for women in the United States. But, in the past 40 years, regular Pap smear screenings changed that. Also known as a Pap test, this simple screening looks for cervical changes, such as infections and abnormal cells, which can cause cancer.

Houston Family MD in Cypress, Texas, our board-certified family physician Dr. Ranjit Grewal offers Pap smears to detect cervical issues before they become life-threatening. For most women, we recommend having regular Pap smears from ages 21-65. However, we may adjust these guidelines based on your personal risks and health history.

How a Pap smear works

During your Pap smear, you lie back on an exam table with your knees bent and feet resting on stirrups for support. Dr. Grewal uses a small device called a speculum to gently open your cervix. Then she swabs the area to collect a sample of cells for analysis. This entire process is relatively quick and painless, but some women may experience mild discomfort during a Pap smear. At Houston Family MD, we take extra care to keep you comfortable so your experience is as positive as possible.

Understanding cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is most common in women from ages 35-44, but 15% of cases occur in women over age 65. When it develops in women over age 65, however, it’s rarely seen in those who followed recommended Pap smear screening guidelines.

There are two kinds of cervical cancer, and you can have both simultaneously.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This is the most common form, and it begins in the cells that line the outer portion of your cervix.

Adenocarcinoma

This type develops in the glandular cells lining your cervical canal. The exact cause of cervical cancer isn’t known, but various strains of a common sexually transmitted disease, known as the human papillomavirus (HPV), is a significant factor.

In addition to HPV, your risk of developing cervical cancer can also increase if you started having sexual intercourse at an early age, have numerous sexual partners, or contract other sexually transmitted diseases. Higher rates of cervical cancer are also associated with smoking and having a weak immune system.

Pap smears as prevention

You will usually have no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer in the early stages, which is why Pap smears save lives. Studies show that if detected early, women with cervical cancer have a 92% cure rate. When detected after symptoms develop, these numbers drop to 66%. And, of the women who died from cervical cancer, more than 75% did not have Pap smears as recommended.

Not only can we detect cervical changes with a simple Pap smear, but we can also monitor and treat any changes before the situation becomes serious. Call our office or book an appointment online today.

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