If you are a woman, you’re potentially at risk of developing cancer in your cervix, one of your important reproductive organs. Cervical cancer doesn’t always have easy-to-detect symptoms at a stage where it’s simpler to treat.
Thankfully, an easy preventive health screening called a pap test detects potential cervical cancer at a very early stage, when the condition is easy to stop. Find out more from board-certified internal medicine specialist Thomas Nguyen, MD, at Nguyen Medical Group in Boynton Beach, Florida, including when and how to get your potentially life-saving pap test.
What is a pap test?
A pap test is a simple in-office procedure that detects your risk of developing cervical cancer, as well as other potentially dangerous conditions, including the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV). Our clinicians take a sample of your cervical cells and have them tested in a lab.
The results of the pap test indicate whether any of your cervical cells are abnormal, which means they have the risk of potentially developing into cervical cancer. If your cervical cells are normal, you don’t need to follow up further beyond attending your next routine health screening.
If your results show potential abnormalities, our team makes a plan depending on the results, which can include a follow-up pap test, monitoring your cervical cells, or referring you to a specialist who removes the abnormal cells.
How often should I get a pap test?
The frequency of your pap tests depends on your age, the results of past pap tests, and your overall health. Our providers recommend most women get their first pap test when they’re 21 years old.
If you’re between 21 and 65, are healthy, and have only received pap tests with clear results, our team recommends you get your pap test every three years. You can get your test during your annual physical when you are due for one.
Once you turn 65, our clinicians usually clear you to discontinue pap tests if you are healthy and have no past history of abnormal cervical cells. You also don’t need pap tests if you are under 65 and have had a full hysterectomy or otherwise do not have a cervix.
You might also need to get pap tests more often than every three years if you’ve had abnormal results in the past, have a weakened immune system, or you’re at higher risk for cervical cancer for another reason.
What happens during a pap test?
Our team usually performs the pap test as part of a pelvic exam. The exam begins by having you lie comfortably on an exam table on your back. You place your legs in stirrups that help them stay open and relaxed for the procedure.
Next, your provider places a speculum, a small tool, inside your vagina to look at your cervix. Then, they use a brush to gently collect cells from your cervix. The entire procedure takes just a few minutes and might cause you to feel pressure, but you won’t experience any pain.
Once your cells have been collected, your cervical cells will be tested by a lab for any abnormalities. Our team lets you know the results as soon as they’ve received them.
With regular pap tests, you can ensure you keep your reproductive organs healthy and cancer-free at any age. If you’re due for your pap test, contact Nguyen Medical Group today to make an appointment.