Pap smears are essential because they detect early precancerous changes in cervical cells. Anyone with a cervix is at risk for cervical cancer, but it's preventable by getting routine PAP smears and pelvic exams. At Canopy Medical Clinic, Val Erickson, DNP, CNP, FNP-BC, Heidi Selzler-Echola, APRN, WHNP-BC, and the team encourage individuals to get regular pap smears. Call the Fargo, North Dakota office or use the online booking feature to schedule an exam.
Pap smears screen for cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). In most cases, you don’t need to worry about the cancer-causing types of HPV. Your body’s immune system eliminates most HPV infections within two years.
In some individuals, the HPV virus isn’t cleared away. Over time, it can invade cells in your cervix, where it causes abnormal cell growth. The affected cells become precancerous, then gradually turn into cervical cancer.
Cases of cervical cancer have decreased by 50% in the past 30 years due to widespread screening. The procedure that tests for cervical cancer is called a Pap smear.
During the procedure, your provider inserts an instrument called a speculum into the front of your vagina. The speculum doesn’t hurt, but it creates enough room for them to gently rotate a small brush against your cervix to collect cells to be analyzed. The provider will also examine your skin for abnormalities, such as redness, discharge, or lumps.
You don’t want to interfere with your body’s natural production of cells. Prior to your appointment, you should avoid the following:
You shouldn’t schedule a Pap smear when you are menstruating, as that sometimes leads to inaccurate results.
It is generally recommended that individuals with a cervix aged 21-65 have a Pap smear every 3-5 years. The team may suggest more frequent screenings if you have certain risk factors, including a previous cervical cancer diagnosis, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system.
If your Pap smear comes back “positive,” this means that some unusual cells showed up in your test. It doesn’t mean that you have cervical cancer. Your provider can explain what you need to do in response to the test.
These are some of the types of abnormal cells that may be present in your Pap smear:
It is important not to panic over your test results. The team can explain their meaning and provide the latest advanced medicine and up-to-date practices to manage abnormal test results.
Call the office or request an appointment online using our online scheduling tool.