Most people have a distinct idea of what it’s like to get sick. They believe their bodies will let them know if something is wrong with a series of side effects, and based on these effects, they will seek help from a doctor. Unfortunately, cervical cancer hardly causes any side effects early on, and once you do start to experience distinctive symptoms, the cancer might have progressed severely and become life-threatening.
This is why it’s so important to get regular Pap smears, as they can help you detect the presence of abnormal cells early on. Houmam Al-Hakeem, MD, as well as the rest of our team at Westover Hills Women’s Health in San Antonio, Texas, encourages patients to get a Pap smear every three years, even if they are feeling perfectly fine. After all, if you do have undetected cervical cancer, this quick and easy gynecological procedure could very well save your life.
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, involves checking your cervix — the lower part of your uterus — for abnormal cells that are cancerous or precancerous. Dr. Al-Hakeem does this by inserting a speculum into your vagina to keep it open. He then uses a swab to scrape a few cells from your cervix. The experience may be slightly uncomfortable, but it is not painful.
The cells then go to a laboratory for testing. If your results come back normal, you’re in the clear, and you shouldn’t need another test until three years from now. If the test reveals abnormal cells, however, Dr. Al-Hakeem will discuss with you his recommendation for any additional tests.
Cervical cancer was once a deadly disease for many American women. Thanks to the increase in Pap tests, however, the number of people both suffering from cervical cancer and cervical cancer–related deaths has decreased. In fact, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if detected early, and according to the Office on Women’s Health, finding and removing precancerous cells based on a Pap test helps to prevent cervical cancer around 95% of the time.
At Westover Hills Women's Health, a Pap smear and other life-saving screenings are part of an annual wellness exam. While the former test is usually only done every three years, a well-woman exam can involve other tests, some of which are specific to gynecology, that ensure your health is at its best.
Not only should you remember that your Pap smear will help you avoid undetected cervical cancer, but your regular, yearly exams will help you become comfortable with your doctor and build a lasting relationship. You will be more likely to talk to Dr. Al-Hakeem about your health if you see him often, and you will be more prepared to accept his medical advice.
Getting a Pap smear is simply a part of staying healthy, and your yearly exam will help you remember when and how often to get one. When you see Dr. Al-Hakeem at least once a year, you’ll be able to keep track of your gynecological health, keeping you healthier in the long run.
Make your health a priority so you live the best life you can. To schedule your Pap test at one of our San Antonio offices, contact us at 210-233-1215, at 210-568-1949, or make an appointment online today.