Pap Smear Q & A

What Is a Pap Smear? 

A pap smear is a screening exam used to detect cervical cancer and other uterine and vaginal conditions. During the procedure, cells from the cervix are gently collected with a special tool and then observed and lab tested for abnormalities. 

Why Do I Need a Pap Smear? 

Women should have pap smears every 1-3 years from the age of 21 or when they become sexually active. Most women can have the test every 3 years, although women with a family history of cervical cancer, HPV, or an IUD should have annual screenings. The purpose of a pap smear is to screen for cervical cancer and other conditions such as HPV. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has a direct link to cervical cancer. Early detection is an essential part of effective treatment for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer doesn’t typically present symptoms in its early stages, so regular screening is the only way to monitor this part of your health. 

What Is a Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a tool used to provide a magnified view of the cervix. It is a camera with two eyepieces and a bright light mounted on a stand.  When lab results show abnormal cells on the cervix, the doctor will usually suggest a colposcopy procedure in addition to a biopsy. These scans allow the doctor to check for any visually abnormal cells on and around the cervix.

How Are Abnormal Results Treated? 

In many patients, results are not abnormal and the doctor will not need to do any additional treatment. If there is an abnormal scan, treatment will depend on what the doctor discovers. The doctor may utilize antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or another form of medication if the abnormality is due to an infection. If the cells are precancerous, the doctor will provide additional examinations and may order an additional biopsy. If a there is a confirmation of the presence of cancer, Dr. Wilkinson will recommend that the tissue is removed through surgery or with a LEEP procedure. If these methods will not adequately reduce the cancerous tissue, more invasive surgeries may be required. Dr. Wilkinson will discuss the pap smear results and all options available if there are abnormal cells.  

What Is the LEEP Procedure?

LEEP is the acronym for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. It is a treatment for abnormal cells on the cervix. LEEP functions by removing abnormal or cancerous tissue. The LEEP Procedure uses a thin wire loop that carries an electrical current to cut out unwanted or dangerous tissue.

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