The Importance of an Annual Pap Smear

Annual Pap Smear, Capital Women's Care

Here at Capital Women’s Care, we do our best to promote wellness for our patients in the Northern Virginia area, and we’ve been recognized again for our excellence. Our team of physicians has been voted one of Washingtonian’s Top Doctors again for 2018.

One way to stay well is to get routine gynecologic care, including your Pap smear. January is cervical health awareness month, and it’s a reminder of the importance of coming in for your yearly checkup with a Pap test. Getting this simple procedure could save your life.

A Pap smear is designed to detect changes to the cervix that could spell trouble in the future. In the past, cervical cancer was a leading cause of death among women. Today, death from cervical cancer has declined sharply, largely due to women getting routine Pap smears. That’s why you shouldn’t put off your annual Pap smear any longer.

Cervical health awareness

By getting a routine Pap smear, you’re taking charge of your reproductive health and contributing to your overall well-being. We’ve pulled together some information you should know about this quick screening tool.

The reality of cervical cancer

Although the number of cervical cancer deaths has fallen sharply, women are still at risk of dying from the disease. More than 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. An estimated 4,000 women will die of the disease this year alone. The good news is that treatment for cervical cancer has improved considerably, and women who get routine Pap smears rarely die of cervical cancer.

Pap smears detect abnormal changes

A Pap smear is a highly sensitive test that detects abnormal changes in cervical cells. It can detect specific changes that increase the likelihood of cervical cancer developing in the future. Women are diagnosed with precancerous abnormalities far more often than invasive cervical cancer. Detecting changes early reduces the chances that you’ll develop cervical cancer and allows you to work with us to take immediate action to protect your health.

Pap smears catch cervical cancer at early stages

If you develop cervical cancer, getting routine Pap smears help catch it at earlier stages when it’s easier to treat. During initial stages the cancer can only be seen under a microscope and has not spread beyond a small area of the cervix. Treatment implemented at early stages gives you a greater chance of a cure.

Understand your risk

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). While there are many different types of HPV, only two are considered high risk for cervical cancer. Having HPV doesn’t mean you’ll develop cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most women who have HPV will not go on to develop cervical cancer.

While HPV is the primary risk factor for cervical cancer, other factors, such as being overweight and having other sexually transmitted infections that cause cervical inflammation can also increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. Additionally, lifestyle factors like smoking increase your risk. In fact, you’re twice as likely to develop cervical cancer if you smoke.

Schedule your annual Pap smear

Starting in your 20s, it’s recommended that you start scheduling routine Pap smears. Based on your health history, we may recommend that you have a Pap test each year or every three years. As you age you should continue to schedule routine Pap tests. If you’re age 65 or older, you may no longer need to schedule Pap screenings.

Call one of our offices in Arlington or McLean, Virginia, to schedule an appointment with one of our providers. You can also use our convenient online form to send your booking request.

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