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.
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.
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.
The following are the possible risks of a Pap smear:
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.