Protect Yourself Against Cervical Cancer… One Pap at a Time

Ladies, we understand that walking into your well-woman exam isn’t always the most exciting feeling. But knowing that cervical cancer is 100 percent curable if detected early through screenings? Now that is something to smile about.

With nearly 13,000 women in the United States diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, Lovelace Health System honors the importance of cervical cancer screening as part of a woman’s routine health care.

“Because cervical cancer is often preceded by a precancerous stage, prevention is based on the early identification and treatment of these early pre-cancerous stages,” explained Dr. Abraham Lichtmacher, Chief of Women’s Services at Lovelace Health System.

That’s where the Pap test comes in. A Pap test, also known as a cervical cytology screening, collects cells from the cervix and detects any abnormal changes that can develop into cervical cancer.

“Because most cases of cervical cancer develop slowly and are preceded by precancerous changes, the Pap smear is an effective test at diagnosing these changes early in the progression,” shared Dr. Lichtmacher.

For this reason, Dr. Lichtmacher encourages women to have the Pap test performed on a regular basis.

“Current recommendations have changed to allow for the early detection of problems, and yet not to over diagnose or treat changes that may be transient. There are different frequencies with which Pap smears should now be performed, which are based on individual’s age and other risk factors.”

What to expect

Women will be pleased to know that the Pap test is quick and painless. “Although going to a gynecologist or any other practitioner who performs a test is often anxiety provoking for many patients, the test itself is a simple and painless process,” emphasized Dr. Lichtmacher.

“The practitioner will look into the vagina with the aid of a specially designed instrument called a speculum, and then take a small sample of cells that are on the surface of the cervix. The speculum is often made of metal or plastic and comes in many sizes which adapt to individual patients,” explained Dr. Lichtmacher. “The sample is also collected with the use of a soft plastic brush or similar instrument which simply ‘brushes’ the cervix.”

The results of a Pap test will alert your provider of any suspicious cells that require further testing. A negative result, which means there were no abnormal cells discovered, does not require further testing until your next screening.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your cervical health. “It is best to follow the advice of one’s physician in determining how frequently to have the Pap smear performed,” said Dr. Lichtmacher.

To schedule an annual well-woman exam with your primary care physician, please call 505.727.2727.