Dr Komalas Women Clinic - Pap Smear

The Usefulness of Pap Smear Test for Detecting Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a fatal disease that claims the lives of many women every year all over the world. Hence, it is best if this cancer is detected in the initial stage when it is curable. Pap smear is the diagnostic test used to detect the presence of cancerous growth in the cervix of a woman. However, it is a routine test that every adult woman should take at least once in 3 years to be safe from cervical and uterus cancer.

More Details about Pap Smear

A Pap smear is also commonly called a Pap test, usually conducted in a doctor’s clinic. Generally, it is a quick procedure where you just need to lie on your back on a table. Your legs should spread wide apart and rest on two supports called stirrups placed on both sides of the examination table. The doctor then inserts a medical tool called a speculum slowly into your vagina, pushing apart your vaginal walls. This way, the doctor can have a clear view of your cervix.

Now, the doctor will scrape out some cells from the cervical walls with the help of a spatula and a small brush. Some doctors also use a specially designed tool comprising a spatula and a brush, called a cytobrush. It is not a painful process, and you may simply feel slight pressure and irritation while your doctor scrapes off cervical cells. These scraped cells are tested in a laboratory to check if there is any abnormality.

Who Needs a Pap Smear Test?

  • Every woman above the age of 21 should undergo a Pap smear test at an interval of at least 3 years.
  • HIV patients need more frequent Pap tests.
  • The immunity of women undergoing chemotherapy grows weaker. Hence, they face a higher risk of cervical cancer.
  • Patients who have undergone an organ transplant also have a greater risk of this cancer.
  • Women who smoke regularly have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
  • Sexually active women run the risk of HPV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases and face a greater risk of cervical cancer.

How to Prepare for a Pap Smear Test?

  • A Pap smear test cannot be done during your menstrual cycle. Hence, you should avoid the days when you will be on your period while fixing an appointment for this test.
  • You need to refrain from sexual activities for a few days before the test.
  • You should not wash your vagina with chemical soap or bath foam for at least 2 days before a Pap test.
  • Use of creams or gels should be avoided. You should refrain from applying such products to your cervix and vagina to prevent interference during the lab test of cervical cells.
  • You need to be in a calm state of mind and breathe deeply during this test so that your body stays relaxed.

Expected Results from a Pap Smear Test

  • If your cervix does not have any trace of cancerous growth, the report is said to be normal, showing a negative Pap test result.
  • If the report reads abnormal, it means there may be some cancerous cells in the cervix, due to which the test result is positive. Abnormal squamous cells of cervical walls may be atypical, where precancerous development cannot be clearly detected. If these cells are found with a slight precancerous trace, it is said to contain intraepithelial lesions. If cancer is clearly detected in these squamous cells, the condition is termed adenocarcinoma.
  • Even glandular cells may be infected by the cancerous growth from the squamous cells of the cervical lining, worsening the condition of a patient. However, even atypical glandular cells may have an abnormal look when seen under a microscope.

When to See a Doctor

You should immediately contact a cancer specialist if your Pap test result is positive. The doctor will conduct a biopsy to detect the intensity of cervical cancer in your body. Your treatment procedure will depend on whether the cancer is mild, moderate, or severe.

Risk Factors Involved in a Pap Smear Test

The following are the possible risks of a Pap smear:

  • Irritation in the cervical walls
  • Bleeding from the cervix and vagina
  • Possibility of a false report that gives negative cervical cancer results due to a lower number of abnormal cells


 The frequency and the need for a Pap test should be determined by your doctor based on your medical history and current health conditions. You should not feel embarrassed to speak about this test with your doctor and get it done regularly. The Pap smear test provides accurate results in 80% of the cases.

A Pap smear test is essential to detect cervical cancer in the initial stage so that it can be cured. Sexually active women are more prone to HPV or Human Papillomavirus infection. Hence, they should also undergo HPV tests along with Pap smear tests. All adult women should undergo Pap tests regularly according to the recommendation of their doctors.

Women above 30 with a previous record of normal Pap tests can go for this test at an interval of 5 years, along with an HPV (Human Papillomavirus) screening test. Women above 65 years would not need this test anymore if they had normal Pap test results earlier. If you have already undergone a hysterectomy or total removal of the uterus, you are safe from cervical cancer and do not need a Pap test anymore.

If you belong to the age group of 21-29, you should undergo a Pap smear test at a regular interval of 3 years. If your age is between 30 and 65, you should also undergo an HPV test with a Pap test at an interval of 5 years. If you have crossed 65, you do not need this test unless you had a specific abnormality in your previous Pap test reports.

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