Cervical cytology, also known as a Pap smear, is an in-office procedure where cells are collected with a small brush from the cervix or the vagina to be examined under a microscope to detect cell abnormalities. These abnormalities can be an indication of cervical cancer.
Most cervical cancer is caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus most sexually active adults will contract at some point in their lives. HPV causes no symptoms and in most cases resolves on its own. However, if HPV lasts for a prolonged time, it can cause changes to the cells in the cervix, leading to cancerous growth. While dangerous to a person’s overall health, this process takes between three and seven years to occur. Regular screening can detect and monitor cell change long before cancerous growth can occur.
Women over the age of 65 without a history of abnormal cell growth or who have had three negative Pap smears within the last 10 years may stop having regular Pap testing. Until then, women between the ages of 21 and 29 should receive a Pap smear every three years. Women ages 30 through 65, who receive a combination Pap smear and HPV testing may do so every five years. Alternatively, women ages 30 through 65 may have a simple Pap smear performed every three years. Women who have a history of cervical cancer, who have a weakened immune system, or who are infected with a sexually transmitted disease should receive Pap smear testing more frequently, at the doctor’s discretion.
To increase the accuracy of a Pap smear, a patient should avoid douching, sexual intercourse, and the use of vaginal hygiene products for at least two days before testing. A Pap smear should not be conducted when a patient is menstruating.
Newport Beach OB/GYN Medical Group, Inc. offers routine Pap smear testing as well as follow-up testing and procedures for abnormal cell growth. Contact the office today to set up an appointment.
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