A pap smear is a procedure that tests for cervical cancer in women. Cervical cancer happens when a malignant tumor is found in the cervix of a woman, the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
A pap smear can detect abnormal cells in the cervix, which is the first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer. It’s important to remember that a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer, but it means you will need additional testing to determine the types of abnormal cells present and if you need any subsequent treatment.
If only normal cervical cells are discovered, you won’t need any further treatment or testing until your next Pap test and pelvic exam.
“A pap smear is the single best way of detecting cervical cancer early,” says Lupe Cruz, LDS Hospital certified nurse midwife. “If it’s detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. That’s why it’s important to have the pap smear performed every three years for women ages 21-65.”
Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus for those who are sexually active, is the main cause of cervical cancer.
“The HPV virus presents itself as genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer,” says Lupe. “ If you have a positive pap smear or HPV you may need to have another pap smear done sooner for screening purposes.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer, even if you’re not sexually active. Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.
In this ABC4 Utah interview, Lupe explains more.