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How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life

Keeping up with regular screening tests even when you’re in excellent health and feel well are crucial to maintaining overall health and wellness. That’s because many diseases often cause no symptoms until things have progressed, and cervical cancer is no exception.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to schedule your annual well-woman check, which includes Pap screening. Just a few decades ago, women diagnosed with cervical cancer had a poor prognosis. Today, in part thanks to regular Pap tests, cervical cancer is caught earlier and women are less likely to die from the disease. 

January is cervical cancer awareness month. Here at Indus Healthcare, Dr. Amit Reenu Paliwal and our team want women to know they can reduce their risk of cervical cancer by getting screened. Studies show that cervical cancer detected by Pap tests has a 92% cure rate. We’ve put together a guide to highlight the importance of Pap screenings in preventing cervical cancer. 

Early detection means a better outcome

Pap tests are a powerful screening tool that can detect cervical cancer in its earliest stages. 

Performed during a routine pelvic exam, a Pap smear checks the cervix for abnormal cell changes that may be an early indicator of cervical cancer. 

Pap screening can detect abnormal changes before they become cancer, preventing the development of cervical cancer entirely. When abnormal cervical cells are discovered before they actually turn cancerous, it’s much easier to prevent cervical cancer. 

Test early and regularly

It’s recommended that you start Pap screening at the age of 21, and additional Pap tests every three years through the age of 29. Starting at the age of 30, you may continue to have a Pap test every three years, or you may begin having your Pap test along with a screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) once every five years until you turn 65. 

It’s recommended that women with an increased risk for cervical cancer screen for cervical cancer more often. A past Pap smear that showed precancerous cells or a past diagnosis of cervical cancer are the two main reasons that some women require more frequent Pap tests.

Women ages 65 and over may discontinue Pap screening if Pap tests have remained normal.

HPV raises cervical cancer risk

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting nearly all sexually active people at some point in their lives.

In fact, roughly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some form of HPV, and an additional 14 million people become newly infected annually. 

Even so, an estimated 90% of people who contract HPV remain symptom-free because their bodies are able to fight off the infection. Because the virus can also remain dormant for months or even years, it’s possible to develop symptoms or HPV-related complications long after an initial infection occurs.    

When HPV does stick around in the body, it can cause abnormal changes to cervical cells that go on to become cancer. In fact, two types of HPV cause most cases of cervical cancer. 

The cervical HPV test detects the presence of the two specific types of HPV that increase your risk of developing cervical cancer — HPV type 16 and type 18. 

 A negative result means you don’t have the high-risk type of HPV that causes cervical cancer. Keep in mind that testing positive for HPV doesn’t mean that you will develop cervical cancer, but it does mean that you’re at an increased risk of developing the disease. 

At Indus Healthcare, we’re dedicated to keeping you healthy by preventing diseases and detecting potential health problems before they start. To schedule your next Pap smear or pelvic exam, call our office to speak with one of our helpful team members. We have offices Montclair, Pomona, and West Covina, California. 

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