Pap Smears / HPV Testing and Vaccinations

Pap Smears

Group of womenA Pap smear done by our Des Moines ObGyn can find pre-cancerous cell changes of the cervix and they are usually part of a regular pelvic exam.

During a Pap smear, your ObGyn inserts a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. The speculum is opened to separate the walls of the vagina so that the cervix can be seen. The doctor then uses a small sampler — a spatula or tiny brush — to gently collect cells from the cervix. The cells are sent to the laboratory to be tested.

A Pap smear does not detect HPV itself. A laboratory technician in our Des Moines lab uses a microscope to look at a sample of cervical cells for signs of abnormal cell changes that may be caused by HPV. These cell changes may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

Dr. Valone our Des Moines ObGyn recommends that women start getting routine annual Pap smears at age 21. Some women may need them more frequently — your Des Moines gynecologist can tell you how often you should have them.  Women should continue to have annual Pap smears until about age 65 — or sometimes later – if they have a recent history of abnormal Pap smears.

HPV Testing

Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most people who become infected with HPV do not know they have it.

The HPV test you’ll get at our Des Moines gynecologist detects the high-risk kinds of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. The test process is the same as it is for a Pap smear — cell samples are taken from the cervix and sent to a lab for analysis.

HPV tests are typically used for women as a follow-up to a Pap smear that finds abnormal cells or when Pap smear results are not clear.  HPV testing is not recommended for all women because HPV is very common and usually goes away without causing any health problems.

For women age 30 or older, a test for HPV can be done at the same time as a Pap smear. If both results are normal, a woman has a very low risk of developing cervical cancer. She will not need a Pap or HPV test for up to five years.

HPV Vaccinations

HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months to protect against HPV infection and the health problems that HPV infection can cause.

HPV vaccines offer the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three vaccine doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person. That’s why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.

We want to be your Des Moines gynecologist; call our office today at (515) 225-7201 to set up an appointment or to talk to any of our highly qualified staff members. We look forward to serving you.

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