Had Your Pap Smear?
Katrina Davis M.D.,
Because of the use of Pap smears, cervical cancer it not
as common in the United States as it once was, but
world-wide it is still one of the top causes of cancer
in women. The Pap smear is one of the best screening
tools for cancer that we have today. It was developed by
New York scientist Dr. George Nicholas Papanicolau and
has been used widely in the United States since the
1950-60’s. Because of this screening, we can catch
cervical cancer in its early stages so that it can be
treated with good outcomes.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding,
discharge, and pain. The problem is that these symptoms
start after the cancer is advanced. Pap smears can
detect cancer before symptoms develop. Prior to the
development of Pap smears, only 30% of women diagnosed
with cancer survived. Now since it is caught much
earlier, around 80% of women survive.
The guidelines for how often women need a Pap smear have
changed over the years. We used to get Pap smears every
year starting at age 18. Recently it was recommended to
start Pap smears at the age of 21 and do them every 2
years unless abnormal. Starting at age 30 we can space
them out even further to every 3-5 years and stop at age
65 as long as they are normal.
The reason for this change in recommendations is new
information about Human papilloma virus or HPV. HPV is a
virus that passes from person to person during sex.
There are different types and studies have shown that
most women who develop cervical cancer also have certain
types of HPV present. Therefore testing for HPV at the
time of Pap smear is also recommended in some
situations. Even if the Pap smear is normal, the
presence of certain types of HPV means that more
frequent Pap smears or other procedures are needed.
Importantly, a vaccination against certain types of HPV
has been made available. The vaccination protects
against the most common types and is recommended to be
given to males and females between the ages of 9 and 23
for prevention. So hopefully in the future, fewer people
will have HPV.
The use of Pap smears and now HPV testing has been a
game changer. These are simple tests that can save
lives. Please see your doctor and make sure that you are
being screened for cervical cancer.
Dr. Davis is a board-certified Urogynecologist at
Central Florida Urogynecology in Rockledge, Florida. 101
Eyster Boulevard, 321-806-3929
Florida UroGynecology where high tech and common sense