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La Raza Article Translation

On the Pap Smear Exam and Cervical Cancer

Cindy Arriola-La Raza del Noroeste (Translated by Janina Giosa)

Go to original article
Featuring Simon Ellis and Ginny Cassidy-Brinn
Both nurses from Cedar River Clinics in Renton


Why are Pap smears so important?

Pap smear exams are performed to detect cervical cancer. Pap smear exams are able to detect the virus before it becomes cancer. In countries where it is common to have regular Pap smear exams, cervical cancer is not a common illness. However, in countries where women do not have access to having Pap smears performed, cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death. In the United States, cervical cancer is very rare.

How often should a Pap smear be performed?

Patients need to make an appointment for a physical exam every year, but we do not need a Pap smear performed every time that they come in for a physical exam. It is recommended that people that have a risk for cervical cancer have a Pap smear performed every three years. However, it is also recommended that patients come in every year for their physical exams to detect other types of cancer as well.

Who is at risk?

If a person has unprotected sex with multiple partners, there is a higher risk that they may be exposed to a more advanced virus. There is also a higher risk for women that had an abnormal Pap smear result. If this occurs, the patient should have a Pap smear exam performed done very year.

Is cervical cancer hereditary?

No, cervical cancer is caused by a virus. This is called human papillomavirus known as HPV.

At what age should a woman begin having Pap smear exams?

We have been investigating what the appropriate age should be. There have been several studies and investigations on the subject and it has been concluded that 21 years old is the appropriate age.

Before the age was based on when a woman began being sexually active, but now it has been decided that 21 years old is the age where women should start having continual Pap smear exams. If a woman is not sexually active prior to the age of 21, then they do no need to begin having Pap smear exams prior.


Women contract the virus that causes cervical cancer having sexual relations with men, so until the woman has had the opportunity to be exposed to it there is no reason to have a Pap smear exam.

The second reason is that the majority of women who have sexual relations with a man throughout their entire life are exposed to the virus and when they turn 50, 85% of them are immune to the virus. So our bodies have a way of attacking the virus.

In the case of young women, a pap smear at a young age does not allow their body to develop immunity to the HPV virus. The body should have the opportunity to counteract it.

Does HPV spread slowly in the body?

Exactly, very slowly. It changes the cells of the cervix but in a very slow manner, that is a longer period of time it converts into cervical cancer.

Should women perform some type of self-examination?

No, because with a Pap smear, it can be found before it can be seen. It is found years before it forms into cervical cancer.

It is always good that a woman realizes the changes in her body and communicates this to the doctor as soon as possible.

What happens if a woman does not have a Pap smear exam performed every 3 years?

It is important that a woman has a Pap smear exam performed, because the faster that signs of cervical cancer are detected, the less treatment that is necessary.

What is the worst that can happen?

The person can die.

Is the Pap smear exam only to detect cervical cancer?

Yes, the Pap smear exam is only to detect that type of cancer.

What is the HPV vaccine?

This vaccine prevents cervical cancer. It is better to receive this vaccine before being sexually active. It is recommended for younger women and it is important to receive the series of three vaccines.

Prevention of cervical cancer:

-Pap Test

-Vaccines for HPV

-No smoking

-Use condoms during sexual activity

-Limit the number of sexual partners

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How to prepare for a Pap smear:

-Do not use vaginal douches (do not wash the vagina with water or any type of liquids)

-Do not use tampons

-Do not have sexual activity

-Do not use vaginal birth control methods such as foams, creams, or gels

-Do not apply medications or cream to the vagina

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Types of Treatment:

Surgery: The doctor exerts the cancerous tissue during an operation.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy implicates the use of medication to reduce or kill the tumor. These medications can be administered through pills or through IV. At times, chemotherapy can include pills like IV medications.

Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy can consist of high energy rays (similar to X rays) to try and eliminate cancerous cells. X rays are sent to the part of the body where cancer is found.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19 Response

Cedar River Clinics is open with appointments in-clinic and online. We are addressing coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention by taking extra precautions to keep our patients and staff safe. If you need an abortion, birth control, or any other services, please call us at 800-572-4223 for more information. We are committed to meeting your needs while keeping our community safe!

Join the Fight

Cedar River Clinics is suing the Trump Administration to protect the Title X Family Planning Program that provides low- to no-cost family planning and sexual health care services and education to more than 91,000 people across Washington and four million people across the country.  Click here to join us in the fight and support our services.

“While the Trump administration is willing to play politics with people’s lives to pander to a specific ideological base, Cedar River Clinics is committed to protecting reproductive health care and ensuring that patients can continue to receive the high-quality health care they need and have come to expect from us. Helping patients is our primary focus, and we are prepared to fight for our community and communities across the country that rely on Title X,” said Connie Cantrell, Executive Director of Cedar River Clinics.

Your concern for our physical, mental and spiritual well being helped us get through this difficult time…