Who Needs Pap Smears?

If you're one of those women who tend to procrastinate about having your annual Pap smear, you've probably wondered, "Who needs Pap smears?" That's what this article is all about. We tell you which women have an increased risk for having an abnormal result on a Pap smear. Of course, you should always follow the recommendations of your physician.

A pretty accurate profile has been developed of who is considered high risk for the development of cancer. Here are some of the risk factors:

*HPV—The main risk factor for cervical cancer is contracting the HPV virus which can cause genital warts. That said most women who get the human Papillomavirus (HPV) don't end up getting cervical cancer. But, in 95%-100% of cases of cervical cancer, there is a link to HPV infection.

Strong Link

*Smoking—What you don't know can kill you: many women don't realize that smoking has a strong link to the development of cervical cancer in women. Smoking raises the risk for this cancer by 2-4 fold.

*Weak Immune System—Women who have weakened immune systems or take medications that weaken the immune system such as those that are taken after organ transplantation are at high risk for precancerous cervical cells.

*DES—Women whose moms took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during their pregnancies have a higher risk for cervical cancer.

Multiple Partners

*Sexual Habits—Women who have multiple sexual partners or begin having sex at a young age are at a higher risk for cervical cancer.

How It's Done:

1) As you lay on your back, your doctor will look at your vaginal and rectal areas to evaluate their appearance.

2) A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. This instrument helps the doctor to view your vagina and cervix.

3) Your doctor may clear away your cervical mucus with a cotton swab.

Endo: Inside

4) A special small cervical brush is inserted into the opening of your cervix and rotated to obtain a cell sample. Since this sample includes cells from inside of your cervix, it is called an endocervical sample. "Endo" means "inside."

Ecto: Outside

5) A sample is then taken from the area surrounding the opening of the cervix. This second sample is called the ectocervical sample. "Ecto" means "outside."

6) The two samples are smeared onto a glass slide. A fixative is applied and the slide sent off to a laboratory for evaluation.

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