Don’t Fear the Pap Smear: A Conversation with Dr. Stephanie Lam

Home » Don’t Fear the Pap Smear: A Conversation with Dr. Stephanie Lam

In a recent episode of the Healthful Woman podcast, host Dr. Nathan Fox and guest Dr. Stephanie Lam, an experienced OB/GYN formerly with Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, discussed the importance of pap smears in women’s health. They highlighted that Pap smears are not just routine; they are pivotal in the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer, making them one of the most significant cancer screening tools.

What are Pap Smears?

Pap smears are recommended for individuals between the ages of 21 and 65 and are a crucial component of annual gynecological check-ups. Their widespread use is due to their effectiveness in detecting cervical cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. Dr. Fox stresses, “Cancer is much more treatable when it is caught in an early stage.” Cervical cancer, noted for its slow progression, can often be managed more effectively when caught early, demonstrating the importance of regular screenings.

What Can Pap Smears Detect?

Dr. Fox emphasizes the role of Pap smears in not only screening for cervical cancer but also in detecting HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Dr. Lam expresses “There tends to be a link between cervical cancer and being a carrier for HPV.” HPV encompasses both high-risk and low-risk types, but it is the high-risk types that are of particular concern as they are more likely to lead to cancer. This connection between HPV and cervical cancer has made Pap smear tests a critical component in cancer prevention strategies.

Preventing HPV

Additionally, the podcast covers the Gardasil vaccine, which targets various strains of HPV. Recommended for children starting around age nine, this vaccine plays a significant role in preventing the transmission of the virus, further reducing the risk of cervical cancer later in life.

What To Do If Abnormal Cells Are Detected

When a Pap smear indicates abnormal cells, the next step often involves a colposcopy. Dr. Lam explains that this procedure, which involves a detailed examination of the cervical cells under a microscope, is quick and generally painless, taking about five minutes. Patients often express relief at the simplicity and speed of the process.

Dr. Lam reassures listeners that an abnormal Pap smear result does not necessarily mean cancer. These abnormalities are often benign or manageable but require further investigation to ensure they are not severe. Both doctors stress the importance of regular screenings and follow-up appointments.

Read the Carnegie Women’s Health blogs today to learn more about women’s health. We discuss the Healthful Woman Podcast, mental health, nutrition and exercise, gynecology, parenting, fertility, and more!

Picture of Carnegie Women's Health

Carnegie Women's Health

At Carnegie Women’s Health, we’re more than just a gynecological practice. We’re partnered with some of the most experienced and award-winning obstetricians and maternal fetal medicine specialists in the field of women’s health.

Leave a Reply