A pap smear is an important part of your overall healthcare. In detects changes in the cells of the cervix, and helps to find them early so they can be treated before they become serious. The cervix is covered with a thin layer of cells, which periodically shed and become abnormal. Abnormal cells go through several stages of change before cervical cancer appears, and usually happen over a number of years. There is a vaccine available to help protect against a virus that can lead to abnormal and pre-cancerous cervical, vaginal and vulvar lesions. However, the vaccination may not fully protect everyone who gets the vaccine, and should not substitute for routine cervical cancer screening.
Depending on your medical history, your doctor may advise you to have a Pap test done more often. Your risk of developing cervical changes may be higher if you; (1) have had more than one sexual partner or a male partner who has had more than one partner, (2) had intercourse for the first time at an early age, (3) have had certain sexually transmitted disease, (4) smoke cigarettes, (5) or have a weakened immune system.
It is important that you see your doctor each year for a pelvic exam. Your doctor will advise you if you should have a Pap smear more often. If the lab reports any abnormal findings, the doctor will arrange for further tests (a repeat Pap smear, Colposcopy, or LEEP). The treatment will depend on the findings.