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It’s a yearly task and most women dread it, but many push their fears aside for an annual pelvic exam. And a Pap smear can possibly save them from gynecological cancers. The Pap test and the pelvic exams are two of the most important weapons in the fight against gynecological cancers. Failure to undergo these screenings annually increases your risk of developing a gynecological cancer.
During a Pap test, a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix is collected by a health professional. The sample is then spread or smeared on a slide (Pap smear) and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. The cells are examined for abnormalities that may indicate cancer or changes that could lead to cancer.
A pelvic examination includes a complete physical examination of a woman's external genitals and pelvic organs. The pelvic examination helps the physician to detect genital cancers, infections, sexually transmitted diseases, fibroids, cysts or other genital and vaginal abnormalities.
The Pap test and the pelvic exam are very reliable for detecting early abnormal cell changes that could lead to cancer and the use of these screening tools has dramatically increased cure rates.
Despite the recognized benefits of these screenings, not all women take advantage of them. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that between 60 percent and 80 percent of American women with newly diagnosed invasive cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear or pelvic exam in the past five years, and many of these women have never had screening procedures at all.
Both exams take about 10 minutes to perform and the results are usually available several days to a couple of weeks afterward. These screenings are an important part of preventive health care for all adult women and they can save lives. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that all women between the ages of 18 and 65 get Pap tests and pelvic exams annually or at the discretion of their physicians.