A simple, 5-minute test called the Pap smear has saved the lives of countless women since it was first introduced into gynecological practice in 1943. The Pap smear detects changes in the cells that line the cervix — the opening to the uterus — and therefore acts as an early warning for cervical cancer.
Despite its ease of use and despite the fact that cervical cancer is completely curable in its earliest stages, an estimated 4,000 women in the United States will die from cervical cancer this year. You don’t have to be among them.
At Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dr. Rafiq Mian and our team encourage you to get Pap tests on a regular basis. When you get the first one and how often you come in for follow-ups depends on your age and other factors.
Would you like to save your life with a Pap test? Find out why it’s a safe and easy way to avoid cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is slow
Although it’s hard to find anything “good” about a cancer, an attribute that works in your favor if you have cervical cancer is that it’s a very slow-growing cancer. That’s why if you catch it early, it can almost always be cured.
A Pap test not only identifies the early signs of cervical cancer, it can even detect signs of precancerous changes. If your Pap test is positive for abnormalities, that means we have time to remove the cancer and keep you safe.
Pap smears are fast
You don’t have to stress about having a Pap smear. It’s not like a colonoscopy, where you have to prepare for days and swallow huge amounts of laxatives. In fact, you don’t have to do anything except show up for your well-woman exam.
If it’s time for your Pap smear, we perform it during your annual exam. You simply lie back on the exam table with your feet in the stirrups. We insert a speculum that opens your cervix.
Once your cervix is open, we insert a swab and briefly wipe the area to remove cells.
We place the cells on a slide and send them to the lab. Results are usually ready within a week or two. If your results are negative (no abnormalities are detected), you won’t need another Pap for another 2-3 years.
Don’t stress about an abnormal result
If your Pap smear comes back positive for abnormal cells, you don’t necessarily have to worry that you have cancer. If you’re premenopausal, we first schedule follow-up tests, such as a second Pap smear or an exam called a colposcopy.
A colposcope is a viewing device that looks like a pair of binoculars on a crane. We use it to take a closer look into your cervix and the cells on the outside of your uterus. During a colposcopy, we may take another swab or may even remove an area of tissue that looks suspicious.
If the laboratory identifies cancer, we remove the abnormal tissue, choosing from a variety of techniques, including laser. Only in rare cases of advanced cervical cancer must we perform surgery.
If you’re postmenopausal and have an abnormal Pap, you may not need to see us for follow-up tests at all. After menopause, cell abnormalities usually clear on their own, and you can have another Pap test on your regular schedule, which is every 3 years.
Stop slow-growing cervical cancer in its tracks (or assure yourself that you’re cancer-free) by scheduling your Pap smear today. Call our friendly team or use our online form.