Ladies, when Beyoncé said we should get in formation many moons ago, she was talking about the year 2022, and it being the year to fully invest in ourselves and our health. I think we have all agreed that this year, we are going to be hot girls who go after everything we want. However, even with that, it is important to take care of our health in the process.
Many of us have not had a single Pap smear since the dawn of time, and I think it is about time that changed. I am sure we have all heard the term, but do not really know what it is, and why it is important to have a Pap smear as regularly as possible.
A Pap smear is a screening test which is an easy way to check the cervix for abnormal cell changes. It detects early changes in the cells of the cervix. It is done to look for changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you have cancer, finding it early on gives you the best chance of fighting it. If you don’t, finding cell changes early can help prevent you from getting cancer.
A Pap smear is recommended for women 21 to 65 years old, and these tests should be done every three years. When doing a Pap smear, you may choose to combine your Pap smear with being tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV), starting at age 30. If you do so, then you can be tested every five years instead.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it’s linked to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is caused due to the cells in the cervix being infected with HPV. HPV is caused by unsafe sexual activity between people. It is important to note that HPV doesn’t always cause cervical cancer, but it does increase the likelihood of a woman suffering from it. Since there are different types of HPV, a Pap test will determine which type you have contracted. It is common for sexually active people to be infected with HPV, and the symptoms vary.
However, if you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more frequent Pap smears, regardless of your age. The risk factors include:
• A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed pre-cancerous cells
• Exposure to diethylstilbesterol (DES) before birth
• HIV infection
• Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
• A history of smoking
Doing a Pap smear can save your life, as it can detect abnormal cervical cells before they turn into cancer cells. It is important to note that you shouldn’t have a Pap smear during your period, as heavy bleeding can affect the accuracy of the test. If your test ends up being scheduled for that time of the month, ask your doctor if you can reschedule. It is also important to remember that you should not douche (rinse the vagina with water or another fluid), use a tampon, have sex, use a birth control foam, cream or jelly, and/or use a medicine or cream in your vagina. This may affect the results, and may not come out as accurate as they ought to be.
So, before you go on that vacation, make sure to visit your doctor and have a Pap test done. It will help save your life. - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper. She also specialises in editing research proposals, proofreading as well as content creation.