No, having PCOS does not increase your susceptibility for having abnormal pap smears or cervical cancer. That, however, does not mean that you can skip your yearly exam and regular pap smear. Your doctor will be able to advise you as to how frequently you should have a pap smear done.
There are many factors that the doctor will consider including your age, medical and sexual history, and results from previous pap smears. If you are healthy, over the age of 21 and have never had an abnormal pap smear, your doctor might only recommend that you have one every two to three years. If you’ve ever had an abnormal pap, your doctor may recommend testing every year or even every four to six months. Some doctors will do the test every year as part of your well woman visit, regardless of your age and medical history.
What Does a Pap Smear Test For?
During a pap smear, your doctor will take a swab and swipe the inside of the cervical canal to take a sample of the cells in the cervix. A specially trained laboratory technician will examine the cells and determine if they look like healthy cervical cells, or if they are beginning to look abnormal or like cancerous cells.
Sometimes your doctor will also request that the sample be tested for HPV, or human papilloma virus. There are a few strains of HPV that are linked to developing cervical cancer later in life; this HPV test will only look for those specific strains.
How Can I Reduce My Risk for Cervical Cancer?
There are several risk factors associated with an increased risk for developing cervical cancer. There are actions you can do take to reduce that risk including:
- Quit smoking. Women who smoke are more likely to develop cervical cancer, among other health problems. If you do smoke, speak with your doctor about a smoking cessation program, or find other ways to make quitting easier.
- Vaccinate. There is a vaccination for cervical cancer. Speak with your doctor about whether you are a good candidate for receiving it and take the vaccine if you are.
- Visit your doctor regularly. Having regular pap smears (at your doctor’s advice and discretion) is crucial to finding possible cervical cancer early in its development.
- Use condoms. The more sexual partners a woman has, the more likely she is to be exposed to HPV. This is especially true of women with PCOS who do are on the pill or who do not get their period. Just because you are unlikely to get pregnant, does not mean that you should avoid using birth control. It is still extremely important to use a form of barrier contraception (ie; a condom) to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
What if I Have an Abnormal Pap?
Don’t panic. Just because the results of your pap smear came back abnormal, it does not mean that you have cervical cancer. It simply means that abnormal cells were detected in the cervical canal. Depending on the degree of abnormality and what type of cell changes were detected in the smear, the doctor may either recommend more frequent testing with a “watch and see” approach, or they may do further testing by taking a biopsy of the cervix.