Posts for: February, 2019
Why are Pap Smears Necessary?
If you are age 21 or older, you may be asked to get a pap smear. It’s also called a pap test, and it’s a common procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. It is a routine procedure performed in the office during which cells are collected from your cervix.
Cervical cancer is a serious condition which often has no symptoms initially, until it’s in the later stages. A pap smear is a vital tool in detecting cervical cancer in the early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. A pap smear can also find changes in your cervical cells which may indicate cancer developing at some point in the future.
When you reach age 21 or older, your doctor may recommend a pap test, usually performed along with a pelvic examination. In some cases, the pap test is combined with an HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted condition known to cause cervical cancer.
The pap smear recommendations for healthy women are:
- The first pap smear at age 21
- A pap smear every 3 years if you are ages 21 to 65
- A pap smear every 5 years if combined with an HPV test and you are age 30 or older
Having more frequent pap smears may be indicated if you have risk factors, including:
- An HIV infection
- An abnormal pap smear showing precancerous cells
- A history of smoking
- A weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or corticosteroid use
To get ready for a pap smear, there are certain guidelines you should follow. Remember to:
- Avoid having sexual intercourse, using a douche, or any vaginal medications or spermicidal products including foams, creams, or gels for at least 2 days before your test.
- Avoid scheduling a pap smear during your menstrual period
A pap smear is a necessary part of protecting women’s health. The test is important because it is the only definitive way to diagnose cervical cancer in the early stages. Early diagnosis is critical to early treatment, which can lead to a better outcome for you.
Treating Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are common when you first start menstruating. It’s common for them to be early or late, but as you get older, your menstrual cycle should become more regular, with the average length of the cycle lasting 28 days.
You have chronic irregular periods if:
- The length of your menstrual cycle keeps changing
- Your periods are coming early or late
- You experience severe abdominal pain and very heavy bleeding during your period
There are many causes of irregular periods, including:
- Puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
- Contraceptive measures including the pill or intrauterine device
- Extreme weight fluctuations, excessive exercise, or stress
- Medical conditions including thyroid issues, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or polycystic ovary syndrome
You should see a doctor if:
- Your periods are suddenly irregular and you are under age 45
- Your periods are more frequent than 21 days
- Your periods are less frequent than 35 days
- Your periods last longer than 7 days
- You have severe abdominal pain and heavy bleeding with your periods
- You are trying to have a baby, but you have irregular periods
There are several ways to treat irregular menstruation. The first step is determining what is causing it. If it is due to a medical issue like thyroid problems, medication or treatment of the underlying condition is vital. Additional treatment measures include:
- Losing weight, if irregular menstruation is due to being overweight
- Hormonal therapies, including birth control to regulate menstruation
- Surgical therapy, if irregular menstruation is due to uterine fibroids or other structural issue.
There is also a 5-year intrauterine device known as Mirena, which can lessen bleeding. It also works as a contraceptive. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment option is best for you.
Irregular menstruation may be self-limiting, but it may go on for months or years. It can affect your life, especially if you are trying to get pregnant. It can also be a sign of a serious underlying condition. It’s important to seek out your doctor to find the cause, protect your health, and give you peace-of-mind.