An estimated 61 million women had at least one Pap smear in the year 2000. Yearly pap smears can be beneficial for your overall health, making them all the more important for all women to take advantage of them. These types of evaluations can detect and confirm any complications and health issues that may be present in the female body. Some of the complications that can arise will vary in complexity.
Receiving a pap smear is a painless procedure. It can at times be a little uncomfortable, but don’t let that stop you from taking care of your health. Women should begin undergoing yearly pap smears around the age of 21. However, if they have become sexually active before this age, then receiving pap smears after having intercourse for the first time is a wise choice to make.
What is a Pap Smear?
It is during a pap smear that cells are removed from a woman’s cervix and tested for various health-related illnesses and conditions. One of the biggest advantages of receiving a pap smear is that it can show the likelihood of you developing cancer.
There are three ways that the results can come back after having a pap smear; normal, inconclusive, or abnormal. Abnormal results can occur due to a variety of reasons, including vaginal and or uterine infections, sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV and cervical cancer.
Inconclusive test results can come back when there is an infection present, a pathologists doesn’t think the cells look normal, or there were not enough sample cells taken from the pap smear. If your test comes back inconclusive, your doctor may suggest that you come back in two months to do a repeat test. If your test comes back normal, then you are good to go until your next yearly exam.
Breast Exams are Important for Your Health Too
Along with your yearly pap smears, your doctor may also perform a breast exam. It is recommended to have this type of exam completed by your doctor at least once every three years. You can also perform your own breasts exams during the years that you don’t receive one from a licensed physician. Things to look for when doing a self exam include redness, rash, swelling, soreness, or any changes in the positioning of the nipple, such as it pushing inward like an inverted nipple. You should also look for any changes in your breasts with your arms raised above your head.
When doing the exam, it is best to lay down on your back using one hand to feel your breasts. Use a firm but smooth touch, keeping your fingers together, moving them in a circular motion. Make sure you cover the entire breast when performing the exam.
Another way your healthcare professional can detect any abnormalities in your breasts is to perform a mammogram. This type of exam is a low-dose x-ray that scans each breast and can show early detections of lumps and masses that may not be detected in a self-examination. When having this procedure, the breasts are compressed for a short amount of time. It is recommended that all women ages 40 and over get an annual mammogram screening. You may be recommended to have a MRI if you meet any of the following:
- Over 55 and have went through menopause
- You hit puberty before your 12th birthday
- If you have anyone in your family who has had breast cancer
All in all, you should take care of your body by going to your doctor on a regular basis and receiving a mammogram, pap smear and any other exams recommended by your physician.