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What’s a Pap Smear and Why Does It Matter?

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If you’re reading this then you know. You’ve heard it from your mom or daughter or best friend: “Girl, go get a pap smear every year!” Whether you listened (or didn’t…and we really hope you did), pap smears remain the standard of care for our lady bits. That said, we hear you – why  is it so important? Just as important, exactly what is a pap smear? Here’s what you need to know:

What is a Pap smear? 

To perform the test, usually as part of your annual gynecological check-up, your doctor first inserts a speculum to hold your vagina open and uses a swab to collect cells from in and around your cervix, where your uterus opens into the vaginal canal. Still following? Good. The cells that are collected are then put on a slide and sent to a laboratory where they are examined for abnormal cells that might signal cancerous growth. Simple enough, right? A quick in-and-out and you’re good to go!

Why get a Pap smear?

A Pap is typically done in order to look for cervical cancer. New studies show that a Pap smear may also be capable of detecting signs of uterine and ovarian cancers, too. A quick note about the human papillomavirus, or HPV for short: This sexually transmitted infection causes most cases of cervical cancer. By age 50, you have an 80% chance of getting HPV. That’s a pretty significant percentage, ladies. The more dangerous versions give you little or no symptoms, so you might not even know you have it. So, if you’re waiting for a “sign” or a “symptom” – don’t. If you are between the ages of 13 and 26, go get the shots! If you have a daughter between the ages of 13 and 26, send her to get the shots!

As with any tests, treatments or medications, communication is key. Talk to your gynecologist about your personal risks and the best course of action for you. Schedule a pap smear today!


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