A painless quick PAP test (named after the human papillomavirus-HPV) can detect abnormal tissue, HPV infection that can lead to cervical cancer. High risks for developing abnormal cervical tissue or cervical cancer include: intercourse at an early age, multiple partners, history of the sexually transmitted diseases (STD)- genital warts (caused by HPV virus) or herpes, HIV injection or immune deficiency (ex. transplant recipient). Also smoking has been associated wither casual or directly with abnormal cervical tissue. As always you need to be totally honest with your health care provider most especially as regards your sexual history.
Generally speaking women age 21 – 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years, thereafter till age 65 every 5 years. After age 65 you can stop having a Pap test!
As in too many medical procedural tests a false positive or false-negative are possible. To decrease odds follow these simple steps: no douching, use vaginal medication, spermicide or lubrication for 3 days before the test.
If your report reveals abnormalities ask for details the specifics and the significance. Cell abnormalities can be from the outer or the inner cervix or they can contain changes of ‘low or ‘high’ grade signifying “precancer” or the test result might show cancer cells. It might not be a simple positive or negative.
You may often thought do I really need all those tests – well finally medical professionals from 17 medical societies have addressed this issue.
They have identified tests and procedures that are likely unnecessary for the 26 medical specialties. Examples of unnecessary tests from the specific medical society include:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Antibiotics for apparent viral respiratory illnesses such as sinusitis or bronchitis
American Academy of Neurology (AAN): Electroencephalography (EEG) for headaches
American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO): Antibiotics for pink eye
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP): Population-based screening for vitamin D deficiency
American Urological Association (AUA): Routine bone scans in men with a low risk of prostate cancer
Society of Hospital Medicine, Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI): PET/CT scans for cancer screening in healthy individuals.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which is new to the list, recommended against performing annual Pap tests in women ages 30 to 65, since doing so offers no advantage over screening at 3-year intervals
Visit for more information ‘Choosing Wisely’
Benefits of routine screening for several conditions are being reevaluated, less is becoming the new “more’. Just like the PSA blood test Doc addresses in April 1st podcast, the Pap smear is no longer going to be recommended yearly. New guidelines state most women should wait until 21 and get tested every 3 years if it is normal. However women ages 30-65 who test negative for both HPV test & Pap smear can wait 5 years. Listen Up to Doc for more about the changes and how they will effect you, your mother, daughter.