The PAP

gyneIt’s January, a new year.  Happy New Year to all!  I suggest you make this year about you.

As women, mothers, daughters and wives we tend to prioritize everyone else in our lives.  That is just who we are.

I challenge you to take time to remember your own health.

Start early!  How often do you visit your gynaecologist or general practitioner?  If you can’t remember or can admit it’s been a while, you’re probably due for an appointment! It’s important, so schedule one soon!

An important topic to cover during your next doctor’s visit happens to be unique to us women; it is the Pap smear. Today, we have two choices where the Pap is concerned; the government funded pap or the privately paid for Thin Prep (which is often 80% covered by insurance companies).  Check your plan to determine if you are covered.  Both the pap and thin prep are screening tools for cervical cancer.

Pap test
Pap test

Early detection is important as early stage cervical cancer may not be accompanied by any symptoms.  Often an abnormal pap is the first sign.

The Pap test:

Looks at approximately 50% of the cervical cells obtained on a swab and smeared on a glass slide.

The Thin Prep:
thin_prep_spatula-from-mail_pathlabs_org
Thin prep

Examines 100% of the cells obtained, as these are sent to the lab using a different method.   Both tests determine the presence of abnormal cervical cells.  The thin prep offers an additional step of looking for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), as almost all cervical cancers can be linked to HPV.

The new Canadian Guidelines for Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommend a pap test every 2 years depending on your personal and family history.  If your risk is low and past results normal, you can wait up to 3 years.

It is always good to keep a record of your last pap or thin prep as it’s easy to forget and lose track of past appointments with our busy lives.  Also, while you’re at it, keep note of your last mammograms, bone density testing and ultrasounds.  Take charge of your own health and make sure you’re up to date. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor.

Two very helpful web sites for women’s gynaecologic health and follow-up are:

www.womenshealth.about.com/od/gynaecological/healthissues/a/gyn/01_4.htm

www.promisetome.com

 

Here’s to starting off the New Year right! Good luck ladies!

 

P. Warren Spencer BScN RN

AccessMed

 

 

 

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