Regular Pap Smears: A Matter Of Life And Death

Pap smear—the term alone is enough to make a woman cringe, isn’t it? While they’re not painful they certainly can be a little uncomfortable and awkward. But is that worth putting them off? After this article you will know once and for all why it’s never okay to put off a pap smear.

What And Why?

A Pap smear, for those who don’t know, is a gynecological exam in which a doctor will use a speculum to open up the vaginal canal for a look at the cervix. Swabs are then used to take samples of the cervix to check for abnormalities and changes that could indicate infection and cancer. During a pap test some doctors also opt to take a swab to test for HPV (Human Papillomavirus) which is a very common STD that is behind 90 percent of cervical cancer cases. Pap smears are recommended for all women who are sexually active and women over the age of 18. (Some say 17 and others say 21).

As said before, a pap smear doesn’t hurt but being in that somewhat awkward position can be a tad uncomfortable and even embarrassing. This little bit of discomfort has led women to put off scheduling their Pap smears or avoiding them all together, but this can prove a very costly mistake.

It’s All In The Timing

Before you put off your next Pap smear you need to understand what putting it off can actually mean for your health and for your life. It’s easy to erase the Pap appointment from your calendar or to play the out-of-sight-out-of-mind game, but that won’t erase the reality which is that you’re putting your life at risk.

Pap smears more than anything else are a cancer screening tool. As with all cancers, the earlier you can find cervical or vaginal cancer the better. The Pap test can detect pre-cancerous changes which give you the chance to stop an otherwise inevitable cancer and save your life. The precancerous changes I am referring to is dysplasia which can range from mild to serious. The next step is cervical cancer. Dysplasia is cell changes that can lead to cancer if left untreated. So the sooner you detect these changes the sooner you can get the treatment, preventing the growth of cancerous cells.

A Silent Killer

Many women are under the gross misconception that they would know if something was wrong with them and especially something as serious as cervical cancer. It’s that kind of thinking that will get you killed because cervical cancer, just like many other gynecological cancers, will not cause symptoms until the cancer is in its advanced stages.

A lesson for you: dysplasia produces absolutely no symptoms. Cervical cancer may in some women cause mild bleeding or pain during or after intercourse, or a foul smelling discharge, but for the most part it can get to its advanced stages silently. And I don’t need to tell you that it is often a death sentence when cancer gets to its advanced stages. The saddest part of this is also the most promising: cervical cancer can be prevented if only women realize the importance of regular Pap smears.

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