How Often do I Need to Have a Pap Smear?

>> Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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 "If I'm healthy, how often do I need to have a pap smear and pelvic exam?” 

The answer is not the same for everyone as it often depends on several factors, such as age, general health, and previous results of Pap smears.

A Pap smear test involves scraping a small sample of cells off of the cervix using a special brush. These cells are sent to a pathology lab to check for abnormalities that could indicate cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be cured, and a pap test can detect changes that allow it to be treated before it becomes a serious cancer situation with symptoms.

All women should start getting pap tests once they become sexually active. Once sexually active, a woman is at risk for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is the cause of cervical cancer. It is recommended that the first pap should be done within 3 years of becoming sexually active and then annually. Once there have been three normal paps in a row, one year apart, some women may be able to have paps every 2 - 3 years.

However, any woman with risk factors should continue yearly exams until the age of 65 years. The major risk factors for cervical cancer are HPV infection, history of abnormal paps, multiple sexual partners, sexual intercourse early in life, history of sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, and previous cervical cancer.

Some of you may have had abnormal pap smears and/or tested positive for HPV, and are worried about getting cervical cancer in the future. I also know many of you worry about being infected with HPV. The Human Papilloma Virus is passed sexually and is very common. It can lay dormant and flair up during times of stress. But, greater than 89 percent of all infections will spontaneously clear by age 45 and just need to have the pap tests followed until that time.

Since HPV is often passed through contact with semen, many women use WaterWorks, our personal vaginal cleansing system that uses only natural tap water with the special stainless steel nozzle to rinse out the vaginal area after sex to remove vaginal odors and excess semen. I know this makes them more confident about their hygiene and does not disrupt the normal vaginal flora that protects them from yeast and bacterial infections.

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