Pap smear Test
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina.
Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer.
The Pap smear is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. In women older than age 30, the Pap test may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer in some women.
Who should have a Pap smear?
In general, doctors recommend beginning Pap testing at age 21.
How often should Pap smear be repeated?
Doctors generally recommend repeating Pap testing every 3 years for women ages 21-65.
Women age 30 and older can consider Pap testing every 5 years if the procedure is combined with testing for HPV.
If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more-frequent Pap smears, regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
Exposure to sexual activity at a very early age
Multiple sex partners.
Tobacco chewing and smoking
Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
You and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of Pap smears and decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors.
Who can consider stopping Pap smears?
In certain situations a woman and her doctor may decide to end Pap testing, such as:
After a total hysterectomy — surgical removal of the uterus including the cervix — ask your doctor if you need to continue having Pap smears.If your hysterectomy was performed for a noncancerous condition, such as uterine fibroids, you may be able to discontinue routine Pap smears.But if your hysterectomy was for a precancerous or cancerous condition of the cervix, your doctor may recommend continuing routine Pap testing.
Older age. Doctors generally agree that women can consider stopping routine Pap testing at age 65 if their previous tests for cervical cancer have been negative.Discuss your options with your doctor and together you can decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, your doctor may recommend continuing Pap testing.
How you prepare
Avoid intercourse, douching, or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jellies for two days before having a Pap smear, as these may wash away or obscure abnormal cells.Try not to schedule a Pap smear during your menstrual period. Although the test can be done, it’s best to avoid this time of your cycle, if possible.
A Pap smear is performed in your doctor’s office and takes only a few minutes.
Doctor will take samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush or a flat scraping device called a spatula. This usually doesn’t hurt.
After the Pap smear
After your Pap smear, you can go about your day without restrictions.
Depending on the type of Pap testing you’re undergoing, your doctor transfers the cell sample collected from your cervix into a container holding a special liquid to preserve the sample (liquid-based Pap test) or onto a glass slide (conventional Pap smear).Results
A Pap smear can alert your doctor to the presence of suspicious cells that need further testing.
If only normal cervical cells were discovered during your Pap smear, you’re said to have a negative result. You won’t need any further treatment or testing until you’re due for your next Pap smear and pelvic exam.
If abnormal or unusual cells were discovered during your Pap smear, you’re said to have a positive result. A positive result doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. What a positive result means depends on the type of cells discovered in your test.
If your Pap smear is abnormal, your doctor may perform a procedure called colposcopy using a special magnifying instrument (colposcope) to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva Your doctor also may take a tissue sample (biopsy) from any areas that appear abnormal. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis and a definitive diagnosis.
By Dr. Shubhangi Mundhada