Pap Smear

A Pap smear is a type of cervical cancer screening. The women’s health experts at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) provide routine Pap tests and specialized services for women who have an abnormal Pap smear. Our prevention-focused care helps women live full, active lives.

At LVHN, we partner with women to optimize their whole health. That starts with preventing disease. Routine Pap smears are a powerful tool to tackle cervical cancer, often before it starts.

Experts recommend most women receive a Pap test once every one to three years. Your OB-GYN will tell you how often you should get a Pap smear – and guide you through next steps if results are abnormal. In most cases, an abnormal Pap test does not mean you have cancer.

It’s never too late to start prioritizing your gynecological health. We can help.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear (also called a Pap test) looks for abnormalities in your cervix. Sometimes, a change in your cervix can mean (or lead to) cervical cancer. Routine Pap tests help detect these changes before they are a serious threat to your health. Many times, a Pap smear is conducted at the same time as a routine pelvic exam.

For a Pap test, a gynecologist, family medicine provider or other primary care provider collects a swab of cells and mucus from the cervix. This sample is then sent to a lab for analysis. Results may take up to three weeks.

A powerful cervical cancer screening tool

Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death in women. Since the Pap test became available in the 1950s, the number of women with cervical cancer has dropped by more than half.

The earlier cervical cancer is detected, the greater chance it can be cured. A Pap smear can identify abnormal cervical cells that signal potential cancer or precancer (cells that could lead to cancer if not treated).

This test can also identify infection and inflammation in the vagina.

Who should get a Pap test

Experts recommend women get a Pap smear based on their age and sexual activity. Your doctor can tell you what’s right for your circumstances.

In general, experts recommend women start getting an annual Pap test at 21. If your test results are consistently normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until you need another Pap test – or stop screening entirely if you are over 65.

Specialized care for abnormal Pap smears

If a Pap smear detects abnormal cells, your doctor may recommend further testing to learn more about the cause of this change in cells.

These tests include:

  • Colposcopy: A doctor uses special instruments to closely examine vaginal and cervical tissue.
  • Biopsy: A doctor removes a small sample of cervical tissue for closer analysis in a lab.

Should your test results require specialized care, you’ll be in excellent hands. Our team of women’s health experts can confidently treat both routine and complex conditions detected by a Pap test, with excellent results.

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