All About Pap Smears

WWE Post

What is a Pap Smear?

A Papanicolaou test, more commonly known as a Pap smear, is a test for cervical cancer. Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus that opens into your vagina and is shaped like a pink doughnut. If you think of your cervix like a literal doughnut, a Pap is like taking the glaze off the top of the donut. Unlike some tests that give you a positive or negative result, a Pap Smear collects a small sample of those cervical cells and tells us what they look like. They can look normal or different from normal. If they look different, there is a range of how abnormal they can look, from just plain abnormal, to a small amount of change, to a concerning amount of change. The results vary from time to time and patient to patient. 


How do these cervical changes happen?

Most cervical cancers, or precancerous changes to your cells, are caused by the presence of human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is incredibly common – in fact, most people have some form of HPV. There are also many different types, or strains of HPV – over 150 and counting! HPV is usually transmitted sexually, either with penetration or skin-to-skin contact. Some strains can cause genital warts, and other strains can eventually lead to cervical cancer. Thankfully, most people are able to clear the infection on their own without any sort of treatment. But sometimes it isn’t cleared, and if not monitored it can lead to cervical cancer.

People are tested for HPV along with their Pap in their 20's only if cervical changes are seen, or routinely with their Pap when they are 30 or over. This is because most of the time, if HPV is present when we are young, likely we are able to clear it. If it is present when we are older, usually it means it has been present for a while, and may be more difficult to clear. This is tested off of the Pap Smear itself, so no additional test is needed.

Sometimes these changes can be caused by inflammation alone, so trying to reduce inflammation through your diet, stress-reduction, and activity can be helpful. Using anti-inflammatory supplements such as green tea extract may also help.

Keep tuned in on this for more information if you're interested. The next post will have more insight related to the topic!

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