The Importance of Regular Pap Tests
A pap test is a gynecological exam that is performed in order to screen for abnormal changes in cervical cells. During a pap test, the vagina is opened through the use of an instrument called a speculum, which affords doctors a better view of the cervix and surrounding areas. Tissue samples are collected with a swab and then sent to a laboratory for further study.
In addition to screening for cancer, a pap test can also involve screening for human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is extremely common among sexually active women, and, if left untreated, can lead to conditions like cancer, genital warts, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. Although there is no known cure for HPV, medications can be administered to lessen the severity and duration of symptoms.
Pap tests are also administered during pregnancy. This is done in order to assess cervical health, as well as to screen for any diseases and infections that could harm both mother and baby.
Pap tests are often confused with pelvic exams. The latter is an examination of the entire pelvic region, including the ovaries and uterus, and is often administered alongside pap tests. However, pap tests are often given without a pelvic exam, and vice versa.
Normal pap tests require no further action. However, if results are abnormal, patients are usually called in for further testing and screening. Although abnormal pap tests can point to cancer and other serious conditions, they are often no cause for alarm. A variety of factors can lead to an abnormal pap exam, including yeast, bladder, and urinary tract infections.
Regular pap tests are important for a number of reasons. First of all, cervical cancer is the single most-preventable condition of the female reproductive system. And since the only way to screen for cancer of the cervix is through a pap test, these exams are necessary to reproductive and overall health. Secondly, many STD’s and STI’s can cause long-term damage if not properly treated. In many cases, regular pap tests can prevent both long-term damage and further transmission of diseases and infections.
Many women wonder if they can have a pap test during their menstrual cycles. Since bleeding can interfere with pap results, it’s not recommended to schedule pap or pelvic exams during this time.
Although pap tests can be uncomfortable and unpleasant procedures, they are typically not painful. Further, they can be done quickly in a private setting and require no anesthesia or analgesics.
The benefits of having regular pap exams far outweigh any discomfort or embarrassment on the part of the patient. This simple procedure takes a matter of minutes to perform, and can save lives in the process.