We have Dr. George Papanicolaou to thank for developing a lifesaving women’s health screening — the Pap smear. It’s a critical screening for cervical cancer, a difficult-to-detect cancer that, until the Pap test became widespread, claimed many women’s lives each year.
In fact, this critical test is responsible for a significant decline in cervical cancer over the last 30 years — 105,000 to nearly half a million fewer cases.
The entire Lake Havasu OB/GYN team is dedicated to providing the most advanced care to every woman in every stage of life, starting with education about potential diseases and the preventive measures to stop them. Here, Dr. Kevin Hooker explains what the Pap smear detects and why it’s so important.
The Pap smear is a brief test that takes a small sample of cells from your cervix. We examine the cells for abnormalities that could indicate cancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (also called an STD) and causes over 90% of cervical cancer cases.
Fortunately, the development of the HPV vaccine, recommended for early adolescents, successfully prevents cervical cancer.
When you visit us for your Pap test, Dr. Hooker talks to you about your medical history and performs a physical exam before he administers the Pap test.
During the test, Dr. Hooker carefully scrapes a small sample of cells from your cervix while you recline on an examining table with your feet in stirrups. He uses a tool called a speculum to gently open your vagina, so he can see your cervix to visually evaluate it.
Your cervical cell sample is sent off to a lab and analyzed, and you get your results within a matter of days.
It’s reasonable to say that the Pap test is potentially lifesaving since cervical cancer is challenging to detect without it, and there aren’t obvious symptoms. The Pap test enables us to spot cervical cancer very early, so your chances of surviving are high. Dr. Hooker often performs an HPV test at the same time as your Pap test.
If he notices an abnormality during your Pap test, Dr. Hooker also performs a procedure called a colposcopy, which enables him to get a more detailed look at your cervix. He may also perform a biopsy to get a more thorough analysis of your cervical tissue.
The frequency of your Pap smears is determined by your age, health, and risk level. Generally, the recommendation is that if you’re not considered high-risk and are between the ages of 21 and 65, getting tested every three to five years is sufficient. Some women can stop being tested after age 65.
You’ll need to get a Pap test more often if you:
DES was prescribed to women from the late 1930s through the early 1970s. We can determine whether you may have been exposed based on your mother’s age.
Dr. Hooker talks to you about your cervical cancer screening schedules. Call the Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care office at 928-683-1668 to schedule a consultation about a Pap smear or to get this essential women’s health test. You may also schedule an appointment by contacting us online.