Annual exam saves lives

Along with all the other things to do, doctors believe that all women should have an annual Papanicolaou test. A more familiar term is a Pap smear.

This test is a medical screening intended to detect infections and abnormalities in the cervix. Although women who are not sexually active assume they do not have to take the test, this is not at all true.

Women should have their first Pap smear when they start having sex or by the age of 18, according to Women should also have a pap smear once a year until they have had at least three normal consecutive tests.

Women are encouraged to have Pap smears throughout their life, even after menopause.

An instrument called a speculum is used in order to help open the vagina so that a sample of the cervix can be taken. After the speculum is entered, the doctor will clean the cervix with a cotton swab and then collect a sample of cells with a brush. The sample is then put on a glass slide and sent to the lab for further testing.

The Pap smear is used to check for signs of cancer of the cervix. This procedure is very simple, yet uncomfortable for many women.

Michele Phillips, 25, a senior English student from Fort Lauderdale, said she feels Pap smears are important.

“Even though they are very uncomfortable they are necessary,” Phillips said. “I just wish there was a better way for them to give the test. said once the results are received back from the lab, they are either positive or negative. If the results of the Pap smear are positive this means that cells in the cervix are changing.

It does not always mean the cells are cancerous. Cells go through a series of changes before they turn into cancer.

A positive Pap smear can reveal inflammation, which is caused by a yeast infection, herpes virus, human papillomavirus or various other infections. The Pap smear also detects early and more advanced signs of cancer.

Some of the main risk factors reported by experts for cervical cancer are related to sexual practices. Risk factors include having sex prior to the age of 21, being infected with various sexually transmitted diseases, smoking and having encounters with many sexual partners.

Tiffany Joyner, 20, a sophomore pharmacy student from Jacksonville, described the Pap test as very uncomfortable and invasive.

“I feel uncomfortable when I get a Pap smear,” Joyner said. “I really don’t like the whole ordeal of the procedure. I just know that it will be beneficial in the end.”

Although many women do not enjoy having a Pap smear, it is a quick and simple procedure that can later save their life.