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What does a cervical cancer screening involve?
You can get a routine cervical cancer screening during your annual exam. A Pap test, or Pap smear, is the best method of cervical cancer screening. The test looks for any signs of cell abnormalities in your cervix that could become cancerous if not treated appropriately.
The Pap test can also determine if HPV is present. This virus can also cause changes in your cervix that could lead to certain types of cancer.
During a Pap test, your provider inserts a speculum into your vagina and uses a swab to collect cells from your cervix. You may feel some discomfort during this process, but it only takes a few minutes. The lab evaluates the cells from your cervix to determine if there are any signs of abnormalities that you need to address.
How often do I need cervical cancer screenings?
It depends on your age, medical history, and other risk factors, but in general, healthy women ages 21-29 should get a Pap test for cervical cancer screening every three years. After age 30, you may get a Pap test every five years if you combine this test with HPV testing. Or, your provider may recommend getting the HPV test only, once you reach age 30.
If you have certain risk factors for developing cervical cancer, you may need more frequent screenings, regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
- Weakened immune system
- History of smoking
- Diagnosis of precancerous cells
- HIV infection
The medical team at FPA Women’s Health talks to you about your overall health, reproductive health, and any risk factors to determine the frequency of cervical cancer screenings that’s best for you.
How can I prevent cervical cancer?
Like other types of cancer, it’s possible to decrease your risk of cervical cancer by avoiding exposure to high-risk situations, such as:
- Sex at an early age
- Sex without a condom
- Sex with multiple partners
Additionally, the HPV vaccine, Gardasil®, helps protect against certain types of HPV infection. Gardasil is a series of three vaccine injections you receive over a period of six months. Both females and males can get the HPV vaccine when they are 9-45 years old.
To learn more about cervical cancer screenings, including prevention and treatment for cervical cancer, call to schedule an exam or request the next available appointment through the online system.
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