A Pap smear detects early changes in your cervix, while you still have time to treat the problem and prevent cervical cancer. Pap smears can catch cancerous changes early when performed on a regular schedule. Mark P. Schumacher, MD, encourages you to protect your health with routine pelvic exams that include a Pap smear. If you have questions or it is time for your Pap smear, call the office in Reno, Nevada.
A Pap smear, referred to as a Pap test, screens for precancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix. During a Pap test, named after Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou who pioneered this diagnostic procedure, the doctor gently scrapes away cells from a woman’s cervix. They then send these cell scrapings to a lab for evaluation under a microscope.
A Pap smear shows whether cellular changes caused by HPV are present, but a separate test — an HPV test — is done to specifically screen for HPV.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection spread through sexual contact. In most cases, your body’s immune system clears the virus so it does not cause harm.
HPV, however, is the cause of cervical cancer. If HPV manages to invade cells in your cervix, it can make the cells grow abnormally, leading to precancerous changes. When these precancerous changes go untreated, HPV becomes cervical cancer.
Women should have their first Pap smear at the age of 21, then Dr. Schumacher can recommend how often to schedule future Pap smears based on your medical history and overall health. A well-woman exam should be done annually, with or without a Pap Smear.
After age 65, most women no longer need a Pap smear, as long as they have had three negative tests and do not have a history of precancerous changes or cervical cancer.
Abnormal Pap test results can be alarming, but most of the time they are not causing for concern. Depending on the specific results, your doctor may perform HPV testing, repeat the Pap test in a few months, or conduct additional tests.
When a follow-up Pap smear shows abnormal findings, then Dr. Schumacher may perform a colposcopy.
A colposcopy is a visual examination of your cervix using magnification to detect abnormal cells. During a colposcopy, questionable cells are removed and a biopsy performed to determine whether the cells are cancerous.
Dr. Schumacher may perform one of the following procedures to remove abnormal cervical tissues:
If your Pap smear and colposcopy leave any doubt about the origination of abnormal cells, Dr. Schumacher may perform a hysteroscopy to view the lining of your uterus to make sure it is healthy.
When necessary, a dilation and curettage (D&C) are done to remove tissue from the uterus and send it to the lab for analysis.
Regular Pap smears to detect early changes while there is time to prevent cervical cancer. To schedule your Pap smear, call Mark P. Schumacher, MD.