How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life

Pap Smear, Dr. Jehuda Renan, Obstetrics, Gynecology

As a woman, routine visits to your gynecologist are essential to your health. Pelvic exams, which include a Pap smear, are vital for women of all ages. This short, simple procedure in your doctor’s office can save your life.

Did you know that 40 years ago cervical cancer was the leading cause of death in women? The cervical cancer death rate dropped sharply in the last four decades, largely due to the increased use of Pap smears. Here’s why getting a Pap smear is so important and why you should schedule yours today.  

If you haven’t had a Pap smear recently, or can’t remember the last time you had one, it’s time to schedule a well-woman visit. As a board-certified OB/GYN, Dr. Jehuda Renan provides the highest quality of care at his Tarzana, California, practice. He advocates for routine Pap smears as part of comprehensive screening to help you maintain health. Here’s what you should know about Pap smears.

Pap smears — a preventive health must

Pap smears are a crucial part of preventive health for women. This simple, in-office test screens for abnormal changes in your cervix and is designed to detect the earliest signs of cervical cancer.

Each year more than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it’s estimated that over 4,000 will die of the disease. Survival depends on various factors, including the stage at which the cervical cancer is diagnosed.

Early detection leads to better outcomes

When cervical cancer is caught early, your chances of survival are high. This makes routine Pap smears a life-saving tool. In earlier stages of cervical cancer, the amount of cancer is very small. We can only be see it under a microscope and it’s confined to a small area. Because it hasn’t spread beyond the cervix in early stages, it’s easier to treat and cure.

Pap smears can catch changes before they becomes cancer

Cervical cancer rarely occurs in women who get routine Pap smears. Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer haven’t had a Pap smear in the five years prior to diagnosis. That’s because a Pap smear can detect precancerous changes in cervical cells, allowing Dr. Renan to initiate treatment before cancer develops.

Precancerous cervical changes are common, and you’re more likely to be diagnosed with precancerous changes than invasive cervical cancer.  

Know your risk

Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary risk factor for cervical cancer. In fact, two types of HPV are responsible for roughly 70% of cervical cancers diagnosed each year.

Being overweight, consuming a poor diet, having a weakened immune system, and having certain sexually transmitted infections that cause cervical inflammation and raise your cervical cancer risk. Lifestyle factors like smoking also increase your risk. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Pap smears are beneficial for women of all ages  

Cervical cancer is more commonly diagnosed in women between the age of 35 and 44. Beginning in your 20s, you should start scheduling routine Pap smears. If you’ve had three normal Pap smears in a row and are free of risk factors, we may recommend scheduling a Pap smear every three years. If you have certain risk factors, we may recommend getting a Pap smear more often.

You should continue getting routine Pap smears as you age. Women over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. If you have a cervix, it’s essential that you continue getting Pap smears.

Starting young and continuing to get routine Pap smears can save your life. For comprehensive OB/GYN care, call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Renan or send your request online.

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