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Why Regular Pap Smears are Important

Once a woman hits the age of 18 or becomes sexually active, she is recommended to receive her “yearly” pap exam. What is the hype over this humiliating doctor’s visit? Receiving your “yearly” exam is essential in the prevention of cervical cancer and treatment of other conditions diagnosed through the pap smear.

The vagina is the most susceptible part of a sexually active woman’s body to contract a disease. Early detection of an STD will prevent permanent scarring and in-fertilization. Often, women don’t realize they have even contracted an STD. Did you know that 80% of college women have been diagnosed with genital warts? The remaining 20% may have them, but have not received any pain or discomfort during an outbreak, so they are unaware. Men tend to be carriers for this particular STD and many never have an outbreak, but pass it onto their female partner. So, even if you are confident your male partner is honestly answering your questions regarding STDs, he may not know he is a carrier. Genital Warts can lead to cervical cancer even without an outbreak.

Your pap smear not only tests for diseases, but the growth of the cells on your cervix. Cervical cells are very sensitive. The common cold can fluctuate the cell growth and cause an abnormal pap result. Recent sexual activity, soapy bath water, a mild yeast infection and recently using tampons can also cause an abnormal pap smear. The cervical cells also change within a woman’s menstrual cycle. With this continually changing growth in cells, it is very easy for abnormal growth to appear. Without your yearly checkup, the cells can change so drastically and completely undetected since it is inside your body. Looking at your cervix is not like looking down the back of your throat. It is the hidden exposed area of a woman’s body.

If you receive an abnormal pap smear, do not panic. Ask your doctor or nurse what the result actually means. A common abnormal diagnosis is Benign Atypia. This is basically showing abnormal cell growth. Most often the causes for this result are recent sexual activity, yeast infection, tampon use, etc. The doctor most likely will schedule a follow up appointment to ensure that the cells return to normal on their own. If not, more regular visits will be scheduled to monitor your cells growth. The nurse or doctor can also explain the degree of concern for other diagnosis as well. There are many stages of abnormal cell development before the final diagnosis of cancer. Although it is difficult to remain calm, try to do your best.

Once you have received either multiple abnormal pap results or a result showing negative progress from a previous test, a colposcopy may be scheduled. This procedure involves the doctor using a high powered microscope to look at your cervix. Many times, he will conduct a biopsy of the abnormal cells during this procedure. The biopsy removes the bad cells and are tested further for causes of the abnormality. After looking through the microscope, the doctor may not give you a definitive answer regarding your condition until the biopsy results come in, but he should be able to give you an idea. Doctors are trained in how cancerous cells will look. If you do have cancer and have caught it early, it is very treatable.

A woman’s vagina essentially makes her a woman. Since this is an area of her body that is difficult to visually detect changes, it is highly recommended to have it examined. Why skip a “yearly” and run the chance of progressing diseases or cancer? Don’t.