How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life

Nov 15, 2023
How a Pap Smear Can Save Your Life
Each year, routine Pap smears save lives by detecting cervical cancer and precancer. Getting regular Pap smears means identifying cervical cancer at its earliest stages when successful treatment is more likely.

The Pap smear is a screening tool that detects abnormal changes to cervical cells. This plays a key role in preventing cervical cancer and detecting it at the earliest stages if it does develop.  As with most types of cancers, early detection can mean the difference between successful treatment and death from cervical cancer. 

Since women began getting routine Pap smears, deaths from cervical cancer in the US have dropped significantly. Here at SheMD, board-certified OB/GYN, Meryl E. Kahan, MD, FACOG, MSCP, provides comprehensive obstetric and gynecology care, as well as aesthetics to patients in Little Neck, New York, and the surrounding areas. 

A Pap smear is the most effective tool for detecting and preventing cervical cancer, making it a crucial part of keeping women healthy.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear involves collecting cells from the cervix that are then examined under a microscope to detect abnormalities. The goal is to check for cellular changes that are likely to develop into cancer, as well as detecting cancerous cells. Routine screenings mean your gynecologist can catch abnormal cells early on before they have the opportunity to turn into cancer.  

What happens during a Pap smear?

Pap smears are quick and virtually painless. During a Pap smear, Dr. Kahan opens the cervix with a speculum and gently scrapes away cells to send to a lab for examination. The sample is sent to a laboratory where it will be examined under a microscope to identify any abnormal or precancerous cells. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes before you’re on your way and back to your regular day. 

How Pap smears save lives

Cervical cancer rarely causes symptoms in its early stages, this makes Pap smears crucial. As it advances, symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during intercourse, or an abnormal vaginal discharge are typical. Once cervical cancer advances by spreading to other tissues, the chance of successful treatment declines. When detected at its early stages, the 5-year survival rate of cervical cancer is over 90%

What happens if test results are abnormal?

Don’t panic if you receive abnormal test results. Most abnormal test results are not cancer. It means that there are changes to cervical cells that may require further investigation. 

Abnormalities can range from minor changes, which may be due to infections or inflammation, to more significant changes which might point to precancerous conditions. Depending on the degree of abnormality, Dr. Kahan may recommend a repeat Pap test in a few months to monitor any changes (wait and see approach), or may recommend more specific diagnostic tests.

Colposcopy is a common follow-up procedure. During a colposcopy, Dr. Kahan uses a special microscope called a colposcope to closely examine the cervix. If any suspicious areas are identified, Dr. Kahan may take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) for further laboratory analysis. 

Other potential follow-ups might include an HPV test to check for the presence of high-risk HPV strains linked to cervical cancer. Dr. Kahan will discuss the most appropriate next steps should you receive abnormal pap results. 

Top-quality gynecological care

The Pap test has played a major role in reducing the number of women dying from cervical cancer. A few minutes to have a Pap test can mean a lifetime of difference. To schedule your Pap smear, and for all of your gynecological needs, call us at SheMD to schedule a visit with Dr. Kahan. Take a proactive step in maintaining optimal health.