“Don’t Fear the Pap Smear!” – with Dr. Stephanie Lam
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Dr. Stephanie Lam and Dr. Fox sit down to discuss pap smears. Pap smears are some of the most commonly performed gynecological tests and typically make up part of an annual checkup with your gynecologist. They are so common because pap smear tests are, as Dr. Fox says, one of the “most effective cancer screening inventions in history.”
A pap smear is recommended, generally, for patients between the ages of 21 and 65 and is performed to screen for cervical cancer. The screening is important because, like all cancers, cervical cancer is easiest to treat at an early stage. Cervical cancer is slow-growing, making it generally easier to treat.
In recent years, pap smear tests are also used to test for HPV, which is the most common cause of cervical cancer. HPV (human papillomavirus) includes both high-risk and low-risk types of the virus, but can lead to cervical cancer. Dr. Fox and Dr. Lam also talk about the Gardasil vaccine, which is now recommended for all children starting at around age nine and prevents HPV.
If a pap smear does show abnormal cells, Dr. Lam will often follow up with a colposcopy. This procedure uses a microscope to take a closer look at the cervical cells. A colposcopy only takes five minutes, and Dr. Lam says her patients are usually “pleasantly surprised” at how fast, simple, and painless the procedure is.
Dr. Fox and Dr. Lam also discuss how an abnormal pap test does not always mean that a patient has cancer or needs to be concerned. As Dr. Lam says, “pap smears are our friend.”
Dr. Stephanie Lam is an OB/GYN with Carnegie Women’s Health who was previously a full-time faculty member at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.