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Cervical cancer: Reducing your risk, the importance of a pap smear and when you should get tested
Women's Health

Cervical cancer: Reducing your risk, the importance of a pap smear and when you should get tested

By Ja'Larna Grant MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology
Posted: January 20, 2021

As women, we often dread the yearly exam with our gynecologist. We know it’s very important to go, but we still try to avoid if possible. I can understand. It’s not the most comfortable nor the most modest experience.

For some, the last pap smear they had may correlate to the age of their last child or it may have been last year. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, we all need to be aware of the importance of this test. As your friendly OBGYN, I would like to encourage and educate you all on the value of that dreaded pap smear.

Why should I be concerned?

Approximately 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. However, with widespread screening, the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased more than 50% in the past 30 years.

How can I reduce/prevent my risk of cervical cancer?

GET TESTED! This involves having a screening pap smear with or without HPV testing.

A pap smear test is the cervical cancer screening test that involves collecting cells from your cervix. These cells are then evaluated, and the results will note if there are normal cells or any abnormal cells.

If any abnormalities are detected, your gynecologist will discuss management and treatment options to eradicate the abnormal cells.

When should I be tested?

I’m glad you asked! Here are a few guidelines from the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP):

  • Under age 21: No screening necessary
  • Ages 21-29: Cytology testing alone every 3 years
  • Ages 30-65: HPV and cytology “Cotesting” every 5 years (preferred); Cytology alone every 3 years (acceptable)
  • Ages 65 and over: No screening following adequate negative prior screening


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What if I have had a hysterectomy?

Total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix): You do not need additional cervical cancer screening as long as there is no history of cervical cancer or high-grade dysplasia

Supracervical hysterectomy (removal of uterus only with cervix still intact): You will still need to receive cervical cancer screening per age appropriate guidelines

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations and reducing your risk of cervical cancer

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Almost everyone who is sexually active will get an HPV infection at some point in life.

Diseases caused by HPV are genital warts and cancer. At least 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, vagina and mouth.

That’s where the HPV vaccine comes in. This vaccine is proven to reduce risk of HPV-related cancers by 99%, especially if received before sexual activity.

It is recommended starting at age 9 and approved up to age 45. This is not a mandatory vaccine, but itdoes provide excellent benefit to reducing your risk of cervical cancer.

So, what should I do?

Go see your gynecologist tomorrow … No. Just kidding.

However, I strongly urge you to adhere to the guidelines and stay compliant with your doctor.

An abnormal pap smear or HPV-positive testing does not mean you have cancer. Your doctor will explain everything to you and how to treat these abnormalities. Early detection and prevention are key.

We have come so far in decreasing cervical cancer by the screening modalities and that by itself is amazing. Take charge of your health and your body.

Would you like to schedule an appointment?

Our Obstetrics & Gynecology specialists are available to meet with you.

In This Article:

Source Material — American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, PB#168

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