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Cervical Cancer Screening Test (Pap Smear)

WHAT IS A PAP SMEAR?

A Pap Smear is a screening procedure for Cervical Cancer. It tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix. The cervix is the opening of the uterus. During the routine procedure, cells from the cervix are gently scraped away and examined for abnormal growth. The procedure is done at the hospital. It may be mildly uncomfortable, but doesn’t usually cause any long-term pain.

WHO NEEDS A PAP SMEAR TEST?

  1. All women should get regular Pap smears every three years starting at age 21. 
  2. Women at increased risk for cancer or infection should get the tests on a regular basis, including in case of HIV-positive and weakened immune system from chemotherapy or an organ transplant. 
  3. Women over 30 who have had normal Pap tests, can consult the doctor and take a test every five years combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) screening. 
  4. HPV is a virus that causes warts and increases the chance of cervical cancer. If a woman is having HPV, may be at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
  5. Women over the age of 65 with a history of normal Pap smear results may be able to stop having the test in the future. 
  6. Women should still get regular Pap smears based on age, regardless of the sexual activity status. That’s because the HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active.

HOW IS PAP SMEAR TEST DONE

PREPARATIONS FOR A PAP SMEAR TEST-

Pap smear test can be scheduled with annual gynecological examination. Patient should inform the doctor if they are menstruating on the day of Pap smear, because the results could be less accurate. Try to avoid having sexual intercourse, douching, or using spermicidal products the day before the test because these may interfere with the results.

In most cases, it’s safe to have a Pap smear in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that, the test may be more painful. Woman should also wait until 12 weeks after giving birth to increase the accuracy of the results.  

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A PAP SMEAR?

Pap smears is very quick test, however it can be a bit uncomfortable. The doctor inserts a device called a speculum into the vagina. This device keeps the vaginal walls open and provides access to the cervix. The doctor will scrape a small sample of cells from the cervix. Most women feel a slight push and irritation during the brief scraping. The sample of cells from the cervix will be preserved and sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of abnormal cells.

After the test, the patient might feel mild discomfort from the scraping or a bit of cramping. Patient could also experience very light vaginal bleeding immediately following the test. Inform the doctor if discomfort or bleeding continues after the day of the test.

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