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.
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.
It is the best tool to detect precancerous conditions and hidden, small tumors that may lead to cervical cancer. If detected early, cervical cancer can be cured.
Schedule for screening:
- Pap screen testing should begin at age 21.
- Routine screening is recommended every three years for women 21-65 years old.
- For women 30 to 65 years who have a normal Pap test with a negative HPV test, screening every five years is considered adequate.
Prepare yourself :
- Do not use vaginal douches for at least 3 days prior to your appointment.
- Refrain from sexual intercourse for 48 hours prior to your appointment.
- Do not use tampons, birth control foams or jellies for 48 hours prior to your appointment.
- Schedule your appointment about one or two weeks after you expect your period. If your period starts, call your provider to reschedule
A doctor uses a device called a speculum to widen the opening of the vagina so that the cervix and vagina can be examined. A plastic spatula and small brush are used to collect cells from the cervix.
After the cells are taken, they are placed either placed into a solution or used to make a smear
Sample is send to lab for testing
It generally takes about a week to get the test results.
You should definitely go for testing if:
- family history of cervical cancer
- suffering from abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB)
- Suffering from any other genital tract malignancy or breast cancer
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
If the Results Are Abnormal:
An abnormal Pap test does not necessarily mean that cancer cells were found during the examination.
Your doctor will evaluate the results to determine if further testing is necessary.
Need for Repetition:
A repeat Pap test may be necessary if there were not enough cells collected during the test. Since decreased levels of the female hormone estrogen also can influence Pap test results, menopausal women may need to take estrogen before they repeat the test. This is not an abnormal result but is called unsatisfactory for evaluation.
Need to Get Pap Tests if you Had a Hysterectomy:
Most doctors would recommend that you continue to have Pap tests after a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix), especially if you have a history of cervical pre-invasive or invasive cancer or other uterine cancers because you are still at risk for vaginal cancer.
Women who have had a partial hysterectomy with the cervix remaining should continue to have routine Pap tests.
Check with your doctor to determine if you still need Pap tests.
Even women who no longer require Pap tests should see their doctor annually for pelvic exams.