Pap Smear by Kareen Saunders, D.O. What causes cervical cancer? Cervical cancer develops when cells at the surface of the cervix grow abnormally. Over time, cancerous cells can spread deeper into the cervix, then through lymph and blood vessels, causing new tumors in the lungs, liver, and bones. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that spreads when a person has vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. The partner who has HPV often doesn’t know because symptoms may not develop for years after being infected. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer? In the early stage, cervical cancer usually has no symptoms. As the tumor grows larger, women begin to experience:
Increased vaginal discharge
Pain during sex
Menstrual periods that last longer or are heavier than normal
Bleeding between regular menstrual periods
Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
Bleeding after menopause
Abnormal bleeding or pain should always be assessed by a gynecologist, so please don’t wait to contact The MediSpa & Gynecology to schedule a pelvic examination and Pap smear. How does a Pap smear detect cancer?During a Pap smear, or a Pap test, cells are gently scraped from the outside of your cervix. The tissue sample is placed in a special preservative and sent to a lab, where a trained pathologist examines the cells for signs of abnormal and cancerous growth. If abnormal cells are found, the Pap test is graded according to the type of change seen in the cells. How often should you get a Pap test?How often you need to be screened for cervical cancer depends on your age and overall health, so Dr. Saunders will recommend a schedule after performing a pelvic examination and getting the results of your Pap smear. However, cervical cancer grows slowly, so most healthy women can follow the recommended guidelines:
Ages 21-29 – get a Pap test every three years
Ages 30-64 – get a Pap test and HPV test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years
Age 65 or older – ask Dr. Saunders if you need to continue getting Pap tests
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