A Pap test, more commonly called a Pap smear, is a standard part of a PGOMG annual well woman exam. During the Pap test, your provider will gently collect cells from your cervix, and these cells are then sent for analysis.
If an abnormality is found as a result of the tested cells, your provider will likely order additional tests in order to determine a diagnosis and whether treatment is needed.
Testing for HPV
An abnormal Pap test typically translates to two distinct diagnoses, the first of which is human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, which means that it is spread from person to person via contact with genital areas not entirely covered through condom use. This means that even with a properly used condom, a person can still come into contact with the HPV virus because a condom does not cover the entire genital area.
HPV is highly common in the U.S., affecting young people, including teens, at an alarming rate. Your PGOMG provider will likely recommend that patients (male and female) receive the HPV vaccine at ages 16-18 in order to immunize against HPV, but you can receive the vaccine as early as age 11 and as late as age 26.
Testing for cancer
The second possible diagnosis of an abnormal Pap test is that the cells may be cancerous. Your provider will need to order additional testing in order to determine if cervical cancer is present. These tests can include a cervical biopsy, a colposcopy, or a LEEP procedure.
Many women do not have abnormal Pap test results, but this does not mean that the test is unimportant or that it can be skipped at the time of your annual well woman exam. Pap tests are the only opportunity your provider has to determine whether you have been exposed to HPV or if you are facing a potential cancer diagnosis. There is currently no known cure for HPV, and cancer treatment carries its own serious trials and variables which depend on each diagnosis. For these reasons, PGOMG strongly recommends that women commit to each year’s well woman exam and inquire about the HPV vaccine for those who are ages 16-18.
To schedule your next well woman exam or to talk to your provider about the HPV vaccine, please contact PGOMG today.