Cervical Cancer Prevention: A Routine Pap Test Just Might Save Your Life

Jan 08, 2024
Cervical Cancer Prevention: A Routine Pap Test Just Might Save Your Life
January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and there’s no better way to detect red flags than with a cervical cancer screening. Your Pap smear just might save your life. Read on to learn more.

Although 570,000 women throughout the world are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, routine screenings can help catch cervical cancer in its earliest stages. In honor of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, board-certified OB/GYN Karen Allsup, FACOG, MD, wants to take this time to highlight the role of Pap smears in fighting cervical cancer. 

A routine pap smear just might save your life. That’s why they are part of your well-woman exam here at  Aurora OB/GYN

Read on to learn more about what your routine Pap smear can do for you. 

Cervical cancer 101

Cervical cancer originates in the cells of your cervix, the lower part of your uterus. In many cases, it is caused by persistent infection with certain high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). While HPV is common, not all infections lead to cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests help identify abnormal cell changes early on and allow for timely intervention and prevention of cervical cancer.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test or a Papanicolaou test, is designed to look for abnormal cervical cells.  Dr. Allsup collects a few cells from your cervix during the test with a special brush. That’s it! It’s a quick addition to your routine pelvic exam.

Your results fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Normal
  • Atypical squamous cells (ASC)
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL)
  • Atypical glandular cells (AGC)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  • Adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS)

Abnormal cells don’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Rather, it just means that some cells aren’t quite normal. 

You may also have a Pap test and HPV test at the same time. If your Pap smear reveals abnormal cells, the HPV test confirms if you have high- or low-risk strains of HPV.

How Pap smears can save your life

The biggest advantage of Pap smears is that they can detect precancerous cells before they develop into full-blown cancer. Early detection allows for proactive measures to prevent the progression of the disease.

Pap smears:

  • Allow you to get treatment quickly (if needed)
  • Remove precancerous cells before they develop into cancer
  • Treat cancerous cells before they develop into invasive cancer 
  • Give you peace of mind
  • Identify high-risk HPV strains (if combined with HPV test)

During your exam, Dr. Allsup may also suggest the HPV vaccination if you meet the eligibility requirements. The vaccine is typically administered during adolescence but can also be given to young adults. Vaccination helps protect against the most common HPV types responsible for cervical cancer and other related cancers.

Treating abnormal cells

If your Pap smear reveals abnormal cells, Dr. Allsup explains your results and your next steps. Depending on the type of abnormality, you may benefit from a re-test in a few months. You may also benefit from other tests, such as a colposcopy and biopsy. 

Most cancerous cells that haven’t spread beyond your cervix are treated with surgery.

Stay proactive this January 

National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder for women to prioritize their health. If you haven’t had a Pap test recently, schedule one with Dr. Allsup. Encourage your friends to schedule their own Pap smear as well. 

In addition to routine cervical cancer screenings and HPV vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend two additional strategies for preventing cervical cancer:

  • Don’t smoke (or consider smoking cessation if you do smoke)
  • Practice safe sex and use condoms (to prevent HPV infections)

To book your well-woman exam, call our San Antonio, Texas, office at 210-547-4700. You can also click here to request your appointment.