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PAP Smear

Why Are Regular Pap Smears So Important?

Last modified: 
23/04/2012 - 13:10

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Having Pap smears at recommended intervals is the most important thing a woman can do to protect herself from developing cervical cancer.

Regular Pap testing is important because

  • no test is 100 percent accurate
  • no one can predict who will develop cervical cancer
  • this procedure enables healthcare providers to detect early precancerous changes in the tissue of the cervix and treat them before they become cancerous
  • women who have regular Pap smears are much less likely to develop cervical cancer than are women who don't have the test regularly, because they get early treatment for precancerous conditions.

Between 60 and 80 percent of women with newly diagnosed cervical cancer haven't had a Pap smear in at least 5 years. A woman who's had regular Pap smears can still develop cervical cancer, but her condition will almost certainly be diagnosed in its earliest, most curable stage.

Nice To Know:

When a woman has had three normal Pap smears in a row

  • her doctor may recommend less frequent Pap smears
  • an annual pelvic exam will still be necessary to check for abnormalities of the vaginaovariesuterus, and fallopian tubes

A woman may need more-frequent Pap smears if she

  • has more than one sexual partner
  • became sexually active as a teenager
  • has had an abnormal Pap smear
  • has had a sexually transmitted disease (STD),
  • has had cancer or precancerous tissue growth in the cervix
  • smokes
  • has an infection of human papillomavirus (HPV)
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PAP Smear

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.