The results of your Pap smear can be confusing, but it is important to understand the significance of this test. This National Cancer Institute fact sheet provides a good summary of cervical cancer screening, evaluation and treatment options. Many of your questions will be answered here, and your provider at Golden Gate will be happy to discuss your results with you further.
Well-woman exams are the foundation for health, wellness and disease identification and management throughout your life. Healthy living and early disease detection can both lengthen your life and improve the quality of your life. Periodic well-woman exams help women of all ages learn more about healthy habits, community support services and the best ways to care for yourself and your family.
Remember, your health care provider is your best source for advice on healthy living. During your visit, your doctor may ask about your health history; family health history; diet; exercise habits; tobacco, alcohol or drug use; sexual habits; and use of prescription or over-the-counter medications. It is important to give your practitioner complete and honest answers to ensure that you receive the best possible care.
During the physical exam, your doctor may check your height, weight and blood pressure, and perform a breast and pelvic exam. If you are 21 years of age or older, you should have a Pap test to check for abnormal cervical cells. If you are younger than 21, a Pap test is no longer recommended because abnormalities usually spontaneously resolve at this age and over-treatment is more of a concern. Checking for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is a good idea for sexually active women younger than 21. Your doctor may also suggest other tests. depending on your particular circumstances or family medical history.
Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) , the most common sexually transmitted infection in adults worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 80 percent of American women will contract at least one strain of HPV by age 50.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved both bivalent and quadrivalent HPV vaccines that can help prevent cervical cancer in women who are vaccinated before they are exposed to the virus. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 or 12, though they also may be given to females as young as 9 or as old as 26.
The HPV vaccine is administered intramuscularly in three 0.5-ml doses based on the following schedule:
If the vaccine schedule is interrupted, the series does not need to be restarted, regardless of the length of time between doses. Whenever possible, the same vaccine product should be used for all doses in the series.
Target population: Recommended for females ages 11 or 12, but can be given to those as young as 9.
Catch-up vaccination: Recommended for females ages 13 to 26.
Once your doctor has spoken with you and completed any necessary exams or tests, he or she may suggest that you make some lifestyle changes. Good habits promote good health. Here are some basic tips for loving a healthy lifestyle: