A pap smear helps detect pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes changes to cervical cells, which may lead to abnormal cells, sometimes called pre-cancerous cells. These cells have the potential to develop into cervical cancer cells, and eventually if undetected and untreated, into cervical cancer.
Why Is a Pap Smear Necessary?
Due to the long development time of cervical cancer, a pap smear provides early detection for prevention and treatment. Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer unless the disease is in an advanced stage.
Who Needs to Have a Pap Smear and How Often?
The majority of women between the ages of 21 and 65 need to have a pap smear or a combination of a pap smear and HPV testing. The time between tests is determined by your healthcare provider. The time span is based upon previous results, family history, and other contributing factors.
Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix may no longer need to have pap tests. Pap tests screen for cervical pre-cancerous and cancerous cells. Without a cervix, there are no cervical cells to test. However, your healthcare provider may suggest you continue with appointments to make sure your vagina and surrounding area are healthy.
Home HPV Screening Kits
Nurx™ provides home HPV screening kits for as little as $15 if you have health insurance or a flat fee of $69 without insurance. Packages arrive with easy instructions and a pre-paid box to send the kit to the lab for testing and results. Once your sample has been tested, a medical provider will reach out to discuss your results and next steps.