PAP tests analyze cells that are taken from the cervix, which allow doctors to check for abnormal cells that could potentially lead to cancer. PAP tests are quick, painless and are most typically conducted during annual gynecologic examinations. It is recommended that women begin getting regular pap tests starting at age 21.
How Often Should I Have A PAP Test?
For women under 30, it is recommended that PAP tests be performed every 1 to 3 years (most often PAP tests occur during annual gynecologic checkups). Women over the age of 30 often will begin getting additional testing for the HPV virus in conjunction with the pap test. This may allow you to go longer intervals between paps. Our doctors may continue to recommend a yearly PAP test depending on certain risk factors such as:
- If you have had a recent history of abnormal pap tests
- If you have been previously treated for cervical cancer
- If you have been diagnosed with HIV
- If you have a history of a weakened immune system
It is highly recommended to discuss the frequency of PAP testing with our gynecologists. In most cases patient’s should be seen annually for a routine GYN visit. We will develop a personalized screening plan at each annual exam.
PAP Test Results
PAP test results are classified within the “Bethesda System,” which categorizes the results and their corresponding treatment options. A PAP test result would fall under one of these five following categories:
- Normal (Negative Results): Test results detect only normal cells, where there are no signs of cancer or precancer cells present.
- Atypical Squamous Cells (ASC): Cells that cannot be considered “normal” are present, but do not meet the requirements to be considered “precancerous.”
- Squamous Intraepithelail Lesion (SIL) Cells: Changes to cells that could potentially be considered as “precancerous” have been detected.
- Atypical Glandular Cells: An abnormality of glandular cells has been detected and cells need to be further evaluated.
- Cancer: Abnormal cells have been identified that are concerning for cervical cancer
Certain abnormalities on the pap smear will require further evaluation. This often begins with a colposcopy, a diagnostic test where your doctor will take a closer look at the cervix and will often perform biopsies. Your doctor will explain the results of the PAP test in further detail and will outline a treatment schedule or recommend additional testing depending on the results.
Schedule Your Appointment With Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness Today
PAP testing is an important factor to overall health care and should be included during each annual gynecologic exam. For more information or to book an annual gynecologic exam or a separate PAP test, please give the professionals at Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness a call today at 919.636.6670 or schedule an appointment online.