A pap smear is a gynecological test in which a sampling of cells are swapped from your cervix and sent to a lab to test for the presence of cancer or precancerous cells. If precancer or cancer changes are reported, a colposcopy will be performed. This is a special microscopic evaluation in the office that can highlight suspicious areas on the cervix to allow a tiny biopsy to be taken. While the pap test is a screening test, the biopsy is considered diagnostic. If areas are confirmed to be precancerous, these cells can be removed in the office setting as well. Fortunately, cervical cancer is no longer frequently encountered due to the pap screening programs in place in this country for many years. If cancer is confirmed, a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs will be formulated to maximize long term outcomes and cures.
Most gynecologists recommend their patients get a pap smear every few years during their annual OB-GYN examination. If a woman has had problems with HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases in the past, the doctor may recommend getting a pap smear more frequently. Women who have had their cervix removed during a hysterectomy do not need a pap smear, but should still continue with their yearly physicals to prevent any serious health problems from taking them by surprise. Most doctors will determine the frequency of pap smears and other tests based on previous health problems and patterns.
If a woman has had a hysterectomy and still has her cervix, she will still need to have a regularly scheduled pap smear. If the cervix was removed during the hysterectomy or other pelvic surgery, then there is no need for future pap smears as long as there was no cervical disease present. If the hysterectomy was done due to abnormal pap testing, then additional testing and close monitoring is still indicated. It is extremely important that women continue to receive pelvic exams after they have had a hysterectomy. While the main cause of the exam is no longer present, a woman's reproductive system is very complex and must be maintained if the patient is to remain in the best health possible. Even though pap smears are no longer necessary, yearly exams will show possible complications related to menopause or pelvic infections.
Feel free to email us regarding any scheduling or general questions!