ZocdocAnswersCan PAP smears detect cervical cancer?

Question

Can PAP smears detect cervical cancer?

I think I may have HPV. I think this causes cancer. Should I have a pap?

Answer

The field of women's health has a very well defined set of recommendations as to when women should get a pap smear. I'll give you some details. Currently, we recommend that women start having annual PAP smears at the age of 21, or 3 years after your first sexual encounter, whichever comes first. The purpose of the PAP smear is to look for abnormal cells that may go on to develop cervical cancer down the road. If abnormal cells are found, then they are usually tested for the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can cause these cells to grow abnormally, and can cause them to develop into cervical cancer cells. If the cells are HPV positive, then they are usually removed by very minor surgical procedure. It is important for you to get your yearly PAP smears so that these no abnormalities can grow into a dangerous cancer. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or OBGYN, whoever you prefer to see for your PAP smears. He or she can recommend when you should start getting these yearly exams done. In addition, you can discuss measures that you can take to reduce your likelihood of contracting HPV. Good luck.

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