- Women’s Health
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- Nurse Barb
Why is this important?
What is a Pap Smear?
When a woman has a Pap smear, a very small amount of cells are collected from her cervix. This is usually painless and takes less than a minute. The cells are then evaluated for any changes that could indicate a pre-cancerous or cancerous condition. The cells can also be checked to see if they’ve been infected with HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.
How often should a women have a Pap Smear?
These are the Guidelines from the American Cancer Society
Disclosure: I am working with Hologic, the providers of Thin Prep Pap smears and the Aptima HPV assay.
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus, which has over 100 different subtypes. HPV is spread from skin to skin contact. Some types of HPV can cause warts on the skin, others can infect other parts of the body.
While the vast majority of HPV does not cause serious risks, there are a few high-risk subtypes that can infect a woman’s cervix from intimate contact with a partner. Though most of these high-risk HPV infections are cleared by the body within a few years and don’t become cancerous, about 10% of these can lead to pre-cancerous cellular changes in the cervix and if left untreated or unrecognized could progress to cervical cancer.
How common is HPV?
I was at the park the other day with a mom who has daughters in middle and high school. She has been waiting to have them vaccinated against HPV because of safety concerns. Like many moms, she was understandably concerned about the short and long term safety of all medications and vaccines. We discussed the benefits and how to make these kinds of decisions as you weigh the possible risks.