A Pap smear, commonly known as a Pap test, is an exam used by doctors to screen women for cervical cancer. It can also detect alterations in your cervical cells that might lead to cancer later on.
Why is it done?
A pap smear is performed to detect abnormalities in cervical cells before they develop into cancer. Early detection of cancer provides you the best chance of beating it. If you don’t, detecting cell alterations early might help you avoid cancer.
Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should undergo a Pap smear on a regular basis. The frequency depends on your overall health and whether you’ve ever had an abnormal Pap smear.
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From the age of 21 to 65, you should get the exam every three years. Starting at the age of 30, you can choose to have your Pap test combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV). If you do, you will be tested every 5 years instead of every 10 years. The most prevalent sexually transmitted infection (STI) is HPV, which has been related to cervical cancer.
If you have specific health issues, your doctor may advise you to undergo a Pap test more frequently.
Some examples are:
- A Pap test that detected precancerous cells or cervical cancer
- Infection with HIV
- A compromised immune system as a result of an organ transplant, chemotherapy, or long-term corticosteroid usage
- Being exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before to birth
How is it done?
- Place your feet in stirrups on foot rests and lean back.
- To keep the vaginal walls open, the doctor will introduce a speculum into the vagina.
- They will swiftly sweep a long, thin swab across the cervix to get a cell sample.
- They’ll put the cell sample on a petri dish and send it to the lab for analysis.
If at all possible, avoid getting a Pap smear during a menstrual period, especially if the flow is thick, as this might alter the test findings. However, if a person only has the opportunity to take the test during menstruation, it is still preferable to do so.
Before the test, a person should not douche or use anything to clean the vagina. Douching is never recommended by doctors.
Normal – The outcome of most Pap smears is normal and does not indicate any abnormal cells.
Unclear – The outcome is sometimes uncertain. The doctor may order further tests to watch for any changes. These further tests are expected to occur either soon after the initial test or around 6 months later.
Cell abnormalities that are common include:
Atypical squamous cells of unknown significance (ASCUS): These are cells that are somewhat aberrant but do not fit the criteria for precancerous cells. If HPV is found, the doctor may advise further testing. Squamous intraepithelial lesion: These lesions suggest precancerous cellular alterations that will require additional investigation.
Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion:
These lesions suggest precancerous cellular alterations that will require additional investigation. Following up with a colposcopy, with or without a biopsy, is frequently recommended by a doctor. Cervical cancer is cancer that arises in the cervix. Cervical cells undergo aberrant alterations that a Pap test can identify before they grow into cancer.
The odds of surviving cervical cancer are favorable if diagnosed early and treated appropriately.
If a clinician detects cervical cancer in its early stages, the patient has a 93% probability of surviving for at least 5 years. However, if cervical cancer is discovered at an advanced stage, the chances of survival drop to 15%.