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When Should You Get Your First Pap Smear?

Cervical health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, and Pap smear tests play a significant role in safeguarding it. This article delves into what Pap smears entail, their importance in detecting abnormal or precancerous cells, and the recommended screening schedules. 

If you’re due for a screening or have any concerns, consider visiting Walk-in Gynecology & Woman’s Care by Maiden Lane Medical for expert gynecological care. Your health matters, so don’t hesitate to see our doctors in Murray Hill, New York today! 

A woman getting a Pap smear in NYC.

What is a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear is a simple test done during a pelvic exam to screen for abnormalities on the cervix, including cervical abnormalities, precancers, or cancer. Pap smears help detect abnormal changes in your cervical cells early, often before they become cancer.

During a pap smear test, you can expect to lie down on an exam table with your feet in stirrups. Our doctor will gently insert a speculum into your vagina to see your cervix clearly. Then, using a soft brush or spatula, they’ll collect cells from your cervix. This part may feel a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. 

The cells collected will be sent to a lab to check for any issues, like obscure abnormal cells, which could indicate potential problems such as infections or early signs of cervical cancer. The whole procedure usually takes less than a minute and is an important part of keeping your reproductive health in check.

Are Pap Smears Important?

Pap smear tests are important because they help detect abnormalities of the cervix that could one day potentially turn into a precancer or cancer. By doing this, cervical cancers can be prevented. 

Some Pap smear tests also include an HPV test, which checks for the presence of the human papillomavirus—a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Getting vaccinated against HPV can also lower the risk of developing cervical cancer. 

With Pap tests, doctors can take proactive steps to keep you healthy and safe from cervical cancer. It’s a simple test that can make a big difference in your overall health.

Abnormal Pap smear results from gynecologist.

When to Get Your First Pap Smear

It’s generally recommended to have your first pap test at age 21, regardless of whether you’re sexually active or not. There are a few exceptions to this, so make sure to see your gynecologist for a routine annual visit regardless if you’re due for a pap smear. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests this age because cervical cancer is rare in younger people. However, if you’re sexually active before age 21, talk to your doctor about when to start cervical cancer screening. 

How Often Should I Get a Pap Test?

Generally, if you’re between 21 and 29 years old, you should get a Pap test every 3 years if your result is perfectly normal. For those between 30 and 65, a Pap test combined with an HPV test is recommended every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years. However, if you have certain risk factors, like a weakened immune system or a history of abnormal Pap tests, your doctor might recommend more frequent screening. 

By following your doctor’s recommendations for Pap tests, you can help ensure that any potential issues are caught early and treated effectively, reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer. Always consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best cervical cancer screening schedule for your individual needs and circumstances.

What Happens if I Get Abnormal Pap Test Results?

Abnormal pap smear results are very common, and most do not mean you have cancer. If you receive abnormal Pap smear results, it could mean there are changes in your cervical cells that need further attention. Your doctor may recommend additional tests, such as a colposcopy, to get a closer look at your cervix. 

If precancerous cells are found, treatment options like removing them or closely monitoring them may be suggested to prevent cervical cancer. Sometimes, the changes might go away on their own without treatment. 

Your doctor might also prescribe vaginal medicines or recommend the HPV vaccine to help prevent future issues. It’s essential not to panic, as many abnormal cells are not cancerous. 

Schedule an Appointment Today 

Regular Pap tests are crucial to screen for cervical cancer. If you’re due for a screening or have concerns, visit our clinic today at Walk-in Gynecology & Woman’s Care by Maiden Lane Medical. Don’t delay in prioritizing your well-being. Take the proactive step towards a healthier future by consulting our doctors in Murray Hill, NY today!

Medically Reviewed By

Fernando Mariz, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology

Expert Medical Services

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