A Pap smear is a way to screen for cervical cancer.
Your doctor uses a simple wooden or plastic scraper or brush to remove cells from the cervix. Then this is sent to the lab for analysis. At the lab the sample is viewed under a microscope and early changes in cervical cells are identified. These results may lead to further screening, possibly an HPV test or a colposcopy to take a biopsy. This screening may detect cellular changes and catch precancerous changes at their earliest stages. This increases the chance of successful treatment.
A virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV) causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The type of HPV that causes cervical cancer is transmitted during sexual intercourse with a person who’s already infected with HPV. You can get HPV from having any type of sex and even when your partner doesn’t have any symptoms of the virus.
In some women, HPV doesn’t cause any problems because the immune system suppresses the virus within 1-2 years. In others, the virus invades healthy cells in the cervix, which causes them to grow abnormally.
Cervical cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms in the early stage. As the cells turn cancerous and begin to affect surrounding tissues, you may develop symptoms such as:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Longer, heavier, bleeding between periods or after menopause, bleeding after sex
- Unusual discharge from the vagina
- Pain during sex
These symptoms should never be ignored, so please contact OBGYN Associates for a thorough examination. You may not have cervical cancer, but if you do, early detection and treatment is vital.