Do you dread that most personal of check-ups, the Cervical Pap Smear? It is no secret – for most women, it is one of the most dreaded routine checks they will go through. There is always the temptation to put it off, but please think twice before postponing that appointment!
It may not be a pleasant experience, but it is a necessary one and it could just mean the difference between life-and-death. Detecting abnormal cells as soon as possible greatly improves the chances of early treatment. Not all cell changes mean they are of the cancerous type but only a pap smear will determine this.
Abnormal cervical cells, also called cervical dysplasia, can often take 5 years, or more, to turn cancerous but if left undetected, thus untreated, dysplasia sometimes progresses to an early form of cancer known as cervical carcinoma in situ, and eventually to invasive cervical cancer. Dysplasia can be detected from a Pap smear, the single most important step that a woman can take to prevent cervical cancer.
It is too easy to ignore scheduling a pap smear especially if you are not experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms. However, you should not assume that lack of symptoms means that everything is all right since dysplasia does not present symptoms in most women. When problems and symptoms do become obvious, it is usually because the dysplasia, or cancer, is advanced thus much more difficult to cure – if at all. It is sad that so many women are still dying of cervical cancer especially since the pap smear is such a simple, albeit uncomfortable and embarrassing, test and only takes about 10 minutes. However unpleasant pap smear tests may be, they will never be as unpleasant as the possible outcome if appointments are not made and kept.
If you have daughters, encourage them to get regular testing especially if they are sexually active. For the typical young woman, first pap smear testing begins around 19 years old and is normally carried out every three years after that.
No woman should ever presume that it would not happen to her. To put it bluntly, cancer is a killer. It does not discriminate between old or young, race, or social class. All women are at risk and regular pap smears can reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer. It is far better to have ten minutes of unpleasantness than a lifetime of treatment. Or worse still, no life at all.
Most women want to look after and care for their families, but to do this it is important they take care of their own health needs first. By staying fit and healthy, they are far better equipped to care for those they love.
Guest Writer LT
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.