Pap Smear: Cervical Cancer Detection

An annual pap smear may detect cervical cancer and other viruses.

Cervical cancer can often be deadly. The real problem is that it is now entirely possible to detect it early or even prevent it from occurring at all. However, most women don’t take the time and precautions to educate and protect themselves against this disease.

Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV can only be transmitted through sexual intercourse or other membrane to membrane contact.

Unlike most other STDs, condoms provide poor protection against HPV transmission. The types of HPV that causes cancer usually produce no visible symptoms and therefore goes untreated, leading to cervical cancer or other STDS that are spread to sexual partners.

Currently, the defense against cervical cancer the pelvic exam. This is a procedure that is routinely performed during your yearly gynecological exam. The doctor uses a tool to take a sample of your cervix and send it to the lab for analysis.

The tissue is simply examined to determine whether the cells that were collected are normal or abnormal. If you have abnormal cells, this indicates that you may have a serious problem. The doctor will have other tests performed to provide an accurate diagnosis.

The biggest problem with this exam, however, is that it isn't always conclusive. Many women are told the test was positive for abnormal cells and have to return for several additional tests without being given a diagnosis or treatment. The doctor basically maintains a “watch and wait” stance.

In addition, the test may reveal a false-positive, which has occurred all too often for some women. Moreover, a woman may ask to have a blood test called CA-125 to detect ovarian cancer.

While cervical cancer is a serious condition, it’s not the only danger to your reproductive health. When you have your annual pelvic exam, you probably have noticed that the pap smear takes up very little time. This is because your doctor is also checking for other reproductive issues.

While they may seem secondary to cancer, they can be just as dangerous or painful and are just as important to check at the time of the exam.

Pap smears are an effective way of detecting HPV and possibly preventing cervical cancer.

According to the CDC, "A new HPV vaccine is now available for females, ages 9 to 26 years. It protects against the four HPV types that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts. But it does not treat existing HPV, cervical cell changes, or genital warts.

The vaccine will be most effective in females who have not yet had sex since they are unlikely to have HPV. But young sexually active females may still benefit.

The vaccine has not yet been tested with women older than 26 years. It may be available one day for women over 26, if it is found to be safe and effective for them. In the meantime, if you are 26 years or younger, ask your doctor if this vaccine is right for you."

All women should visit their gynecologist annually. You can't afford not to!