Girls, Have You Been Papped Lately?

As we finish out Cervical Cancer Awareness month, we have to ask one more time, did you schedule your pap smear for this year?

Sure, no woman likes to go and have one done. It’s just…well, it is what it is. But going through the uncomfortable process for just a few minutes could save your life. Don’t think of it as embarrassing, but life saving. And seriously, your doctor has seen one, they’ve seen them all. It’s their job and they do it day after day, without really thinking about it. So get over it and get one booked!

Pap smears are the best way to catch cervical cancer in its early stages. And cervical cancer is one of the cancers that is 100% preventable – as long as women get regular pap smears. Without a pap smear, there is no way to detect the abnormal and pre-cancerous conditions that lead to cancer of the cervix.

Cervical cancer is caused from HPV – the Human Papillomavirus. It is a sexually transmitted infection that occurs in close to 80% of all sexually active adults.  There are close to 200 different forms of the virus. While some of the forms have no symptoms, others do and are serious. There are 4 known types that cause cervical cancer. All types are preventable and easily treated if caught in the pre-cancerous stage.

If you’ve never had a pap before, don’t worry about it. It is quick and only has a few seconds of discomfort – not pain. The doctor takes a swab and lightly scrapes some skin cells off the surface of the cervix. The cells are then taken to the lab and analyzed to make sure they are normal. If the cells are normal, you can go for one year until your next pap. Abnormal cells require a bit more investigation.

When you have an abnormal pap, the doctor will have you come back in for what is usually an in-depth pap. They take more cells and from several spots on the cervix. Those cells are then sent off to the lab to see if they are normal or what level of abnormal they are. Some of these tests will come back as normal and others as pre-cancerous. Pre-cancerous labs will need further treatment as suggested by your doctor. They may include a loop procedure or a procedure that freezes more of the cells off the cervix. Both of these procedures are meant to eliminate the abnormal cells.

Once a procedure is done, you will need to see the doctor again in usually six weeks. A follow up of three months is usually scheduled to see if the cells are still normal or if they are abnormal. Normal paps can go for three more months and abnormal ones require either another loop procedure or a cold-knife cone biopsy to remove the cervix. Depending on your age and the status of your cells, the doctor may also suggest a partial or complete hysterectomy.

There were 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer reported last year. And even more unfortunate were the 3,900 deaths during the year 2008 from the HPV virus that causes cancer. All of those deaths could have been prevented if a pap smear had been done regularly and caught abnormal cells in their early development.

Take a minute and call your doctor. Book your annual exam and make it a party day. Don’t dread the day or make it worse than it is. Look at it as if it is a way to save your life. After all, you’re worth it. Take yourself out to lunch, have some ice cream or spend the rest of the day doing nothing. Spending 30 seconds having the test could be the best 30 seconds of your life.

Source: Wiki

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