CP-Africa is teaming up with Ada Enyioha, a medical school student at the University of Minnesota and EwellAfrica, an African health and wellness blog to launch “10 on health,” a column about various health topics. Ada is launching this column with a discussion about pap smears for the benefit of our female readers. Please read, learn and share with your network on Facebook and Twitter!
10 on health: 10 Things To Know About Pap Smears
1. A Pap smear is a procedure done at a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital to test for abnormal cells that can become cervical cancer in women. It is performed on women between the ages of 21 to 30 and involves collecting cells from around the cervix
2. In women over 30, the Pap smear may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer.
3. If you continually have negative Pap smear results after age 30, your doctor may decide to do the test less often.
4. Women who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or who are over 65 years old and have had 3 consecutive negative test results may stop getting Pap smears.
5. If you are a virgin, you don’t need a Pap smear. However getting a Pap smear will not cause you to lose your virginity.
6. Avoid intercourse, douching (google it ladies) or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jellies for two days before having a Pap smear, as these may wash away or obscure abnormal cells.
7. Try not to schedule a Pap smear during your menstrual period. Although the test can be done, it’s best to avoid this time of your cycle
8. Any woman who has had sex, even with just one partner, could have HPV and not even know it. HPV is a very common virus. About eight out of 10 women will carry HPV at some point in time by the age of 50.
9. The exam itself is a bit uncomfortable and a lot of women dread it – yikes – but cancer is an even bigger dread!!
10. The test results are usually back in a few days and your doctor will call if results are positive or obscure. If this happens, s/he performs a cervical biopsy to figure out the extent of abnormal cell growth and invasion.
Gardasil is a vaccine available for young girls (9-26 years old) who have never been sexually active to prevent getting the HPV virus. Ask your doctor more about this vaccine.
Image via Mayoclinic