505.955.9454
info@southwestcare.org

Pap Smears

In 2013, Southwest Care Center merged with Santa Fe Women’s Health Center. We are experts in the area of women’s health. At Southwest Care Center, we believe that part of caring for our community is making sure that our female patients are always incorporating preventive care into how they take care of their overall health and wellness. That begins with a well-woman exam which may include a Pap smear and breast exam.

To ensure that you receive the proper preventive care, including a pap smear, please call us at 505.955.9454.

Why are Pap Smears Important?

A Pap smear, also referred to as a Pap test, is a special test that can detect cervical cancer or risk for developing cervical cancer in women. The procedure involves collecting a small sample of cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus. The sample is then examined under a microscope to determine if any abnormal or cancerous cells are present.

Detecting signs of cervical cancer early gives you the best chance at a beating the disease. A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells which may indicate that cancer could develop in the future. Detecting abnormal cells in the early stages with a Pap smear gives patients the best chances to effectively treat and cure any developing cancer cells.

In women older than age 30, the Pap test is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam and may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause cervical cancer.

What to Expect at Your SCC Visit for a Pap Smear

Pap smears and well-woman exams are very common, and we do them every day. With that said, we know visiting the doctor can come with some anxiety, or at least some questions about what a patient can expect during their visits. We want all patients to feel as comfortable as possible while they are a guest at our clinics.

When you come to a Southwest Care Center clinic, you will first be asked to fill out some paperwork. This can take some extra time but is necessary for us to have the information we need to best serve you. We are very successful at keeping our wait times short and rank in the top 95% of other medical clinics on this measure. Once it is time for your visit, a nurse or medical assistant will call you back to one of our exam rooms, where they will ask you questions and record your height, weight, blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. They will then let your provider know you are ready. Once your provider comes to see you, he or she will review your medical record, including responses you made to questions already asked. They will then perform the physical exam, recommending and performing various tests, depending on your needs.

At the end of your visit, don’t forget to request to sign up for our new patient portal. This portal will put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting information from your provider and will allow you to receive your labs results and pay your bill online.

Who Needs a Pap Test and How Often?

Southwest Care Center’s women’s health physicians recommend that most women begin Pap testing at age 21 and have the test performed every 3 years from age 21 to 65. Your physician may choose to combine Pap testing with testing for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) starting at age 30. If this is the case, then you can be tested every five years instead of every 3. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it’s been definitively linked to cervical cancer.

Southwest Care Center’s women’s health experts may recommend Pap testing more frequently than 3 years if you have certain heightened risk factors, including:

  • A Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
  • A diagnosis of cervical cancer at any point
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
  • HIV infection
  • Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
  • A history of tobacco smoking

Your provider at Southwest Care Center will go over the benefits and risks of Pap smears with you, and together you can decide what option is best for you based on your risk factors.