Cervical Cancer Screening: Understanding Pap Test Guidelines

Cancer in all its many forms is an insidious and unpredictable disease, so any opportunity you have to stay one step ahead of cancer is a step well worth taking. This is very much the case with cervical cancer, which we can screen for with the quick-and-easy Pap test, or Pap smear.

As part of our comprehensive women’s health care services, Dr. Bazel and our team here at Michael Bazel, M.D. provide regular Pap testing.

If you want to figure out a good schedule for cervical cancer screening, read on.

Great protection against cervical cancer

The number of women who succumb to cervical cancer in the United States is far lower than it once was — nearly 14,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2023, and it will lead to about 4,300 deaths.

The primary reason for the drop in cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths over the past 50 years is that more women are being screened for the disease with the Pap test.

With this test, we’re able to detect abnormal cells on your cervix, cells that have the potential to turn precancerous or cancerous. This ability to identify potentially problematic cells and take action is what makes the Pap test so effective in terms of protection.

Undergoing a Pap test

If you haven’t already undergone a Pap test, we assure you that it’s both quick and easy. First, we make you comfortable on the examination table, and then we insert a speculum into your vagina to allow access to your cervix. With the speculum in place, we use a long swab to gently remove cells from the surface of your cervix.

Once we complete the swab, we remove the speculum and your test is complete. Our work, however, isn’t done as we send the swab to our lab for testing.

When results are abnormal

Cervical cancers are primarily caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), but HPV in all its strains is very common.

What this means is that finding abnormal cells during a Pap test is quite common and not necessarily cause for alarm. These abnormal cells might indicate a low-grade issue or they could be precancerous.

To figure out which, we conduct further testing, which might be a follow-up Pap test in a few months or a colposcopy, a procedure in which we take a sample of tissue from your cervix for further study.

How often you should undergo a Pap test

We saved testing guidelines for last so you could see that schedules can vary greatly depending on what we find.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women start screening with the Pap test at the age of 21. Until the age of 29, women should undergo a Pap test every three years.

From the ages of 30-65, women have three options:

  1. A combination Pap and HPV test every 5 years
  2. A pap test every three years
  3. An HPV test every five years

These guidelines assume that we find nothing during your testing. As we discussed, if your results are abnormal, we will likely add to this testing schedule.

To schedule your quick and easy screening for cervical cancer, please call one of our conveniently located offices in the greater Los Angeles area in Panorama City, Bell, and Valley Village, California, to schedule an appointment today. Or you can request an appointment online anytime.

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