It's generally recommended that women have their first Pap smear at the age of 21. Dr. Barrett, at Centennial Women's Health Group, is happy to work with each patient to design a Pap smear schedule that suits their individual needs.
Many women need a Pap smear only every 2-5 years, but this depends upon the patient's individual age and health conditions. Healthy women of childbearing age generally don't need to have yearly Pap smears. However, just because women do not have to receive a Pap smear, women should still plan on having a gynecological exam every year to review their health history and discuss any health issues.
Pap smears are often done during well woman checkups, although an appointment just for a pap smear can be arranged if it's needed. Since well woman appointments are designed to check on all aspects of a woman's reproductive health, a Pap smear generally fits into this appointment well.
A Pap smear is very simple and fast. While the patient is laying comfortably with their legs in stirrups for a pelvic exam, Dr. Barrett will use a speculum to visualize the cervix - the opening of the uterus. The whole process takes just a couple of minutes. The cells obtained from the cervix are then tested for the presence of cancerous and abnormal cells.
An abnormal Pap smear isn't a reason to panic, and it doesn't always indicate cervical cancer. If the Pap smear is abnormal, a second test may need to be performed. However, in the majority of cases the abnormal cells resolve on their own. In the unusual event that cervical cancer is present, Dr. Barrett can discuss all treatment options with the patient in detail. Thanks to Pap smear testing, cervical cancer can now be detected early, and it can even be seen in its earliest forms.