If you are a woman over the age of 18, you should already be visiting a gynecologist such as North Dallas's own Dr. Carolyn Ross Riley for annual care. As part of your routine checkups and exam, you may also hear talk about getting a Pap smear. Whether this is your first time getting Pap smear or you're just wondering why this test is so important, we are here to tell you everything you need to understand about the topic.
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear is the best way for our North Dallas women’s doctor to check the cells of the cervix, a structure that lies between the uterus and the vagina. By performing this test, we can check for any abnormal or suspicious cells that could be an early warning sign of cervical cancer, a disease often due to a sexually transmitted infection known as the human papillomavirus (more commonly known as HPV).
Who Should Get a Pap Smear?
While most young women will begin seeing their gynecologist once they are sexually active or by the time they turn 18, most OBGYNs won’t recommend getting a Pap smear until around 21 years old. If you are still a virgin, you and your gynecologist will discuss whether you require a Pap smear since the risk of cervical cancer for those who’ve never had sexual intercourse is rather low.
Of course, there are other risk factors that could increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. During your first gynecological exam, your gynecologist will sit with you and discuss your medical history at length to determine when you should get your first Pap smear.
Are There Ways to Protect Yourself From Getting Cervical Cancer?
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of cervical cancer cases are due to HPV. Given that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, the most obvious way to protect yourself against the infection is either to remain abstinent or practice safe sex. This means using a condom every time you have sex, which can reduce your risk of becoming infected. Using spermicidal gels can also protect against HPV.
It’s also important that you and your gynecologist discuss whether you could benefit from getting the HPV vaccine, a process that involves three separate shots spread out over six months. While most girls get the vaccine during their pre-teen years (11 or 12 years old), any young woman between the ages of 9 to 26 years old should consider getting the HPV vaccine to protect against most forms of cervical cancer.
Need More Info? Call Us Today!
Do you have questions about getting a Pap smear? Do you need to schedule your next annual gynecology exam? Whatever the case might be, don’t hesitate to call CornerstoneMD's North Dallas office at (469) 801-8480 to schedule your appointment with our very own Dr. Carolyn Ross Riley.