Pap Smear Test
Pap Smear Test

Pap Smear Test


A Pap smear test is a screening procedure carried out to test for cervical cancer in women. It involves collection of cells from the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus and at top of the vagina.

Pap smear testing helps to diagnose cervical cancer early and hence, increasing the probability of effective treatment. Changes in your cervical cells can cause cervical cancer in the long run. Taking a pap test helps to detect these abnormal cells and treatment can help prevent the possibility of the cervical cells becoming cancerous.

Why Do You Need A Pap Smear Test?

A Pap smear test is used to check for cervical cancer. It is usually done together with a pelvic examination. A Pap smear test may be combined with human papillomavirus (HPV) test in women that are older than 30 years. HPV is a common, sexually transmitted infection (STIs) that can cause cervical cancer. In some cases of testing for cervical cancer, the HPV test may be done instead of a Pap smear test.

Who Should Have A Pap Smear?

The recommended age that a woman can begin a Pap smear test is 21 years. Once you are above this age, you have to visit your doctor for Pap smear test at regular intervals.

How Often Should A Pap Smear Test Be Repeated?

Generally, it is recommended that women of ages 21 to 65 should have their Pap smear test every three years. Women older than 30 years may take their Pap test every five years if the procedure is combined with HPV testing or directly take an HPV test instead.

Regardless of your age, your doctor may recommend that you take a Pap smear test more frequently if you have some risk factors. Risk factors include:

  • A pap smear test or cervical cancer diagnosis that makes the individual susceptible to precancerous cells
  • Human Immunodeficiency Viral (HIV) Infection
  • Weakening of the Immune system due to the transplant of an organ, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
  • Past Smoking experiences
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth

Who Can Consider Stopping Pap Smears?

You or your doctor may decide you stop Pap testing in certain situations such as:

  • After a total hysterectomy: A total hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus including the cervix. You may stop routine Pap smear testing if your hysterectomy was taken to prevent noncancerous condition such as uterine fibroids, but your doctor will recommend you continue your regular Pap testing in cases where hysterectomy operation was for a precancerous or cancerous condition of the cervix.
  • Older age: Generally, women can stop their routine Pap testing at the age of 65 if their previous tests for cervical cancer have been negative.

You can discuss your option to stop Pap testing with your doctor. The doctor will be in the best position to advise you based on your risk factors. He or she may recommend you continue Pap testing if you have multiple sexual partners.

Risks

A Pap smear is a safe way to check for cervical cancer, but it is not foolproof of cancer since your result can be false-negative. A false-negative result doesn’t mean a mistake was made in Pap testing; rather, it shows there is no abnormality even if you have abnormal cells.

A false-negative is caused by certain factors which include:

  • A small number of abnormal cells
  • Blood or inflammatory cells obscuring the abnormal cells
  • An inadequate collection of cells

It is also possible that an abnormal cell will not be detected in a Pap smear test. It takes several years before abnormal cells develop into cervical cancer. Probably if one test doesn't detect the abnormal cells, the next test will.

Preparing For Pap Smear Test

The following tips must be adhered to ensure an effective Pap smear test:

  • You must avoid intercourse, douching, or using any vagina medicines, spermicidal foams, creams or jellies for at least two days before your Pap smear test. These may wash away or obscure the abnormal cells.
  • Your Pap smear test should not be scheduled during your menstrual period.

What To Expect During And After the Pap Smear Test?

During the Pap smear test

A Pap smear only takes a few minutes to complete, and it can be done in the doctor’s office. The doctor may ask you to undress completely or from your waist downwards and lie down with your back on the examination table and your place legs on the stirrups.

An instrument called speculum is inserted into your vagina which holds the walls of your vagina apart so the doctor can easily see your cervix. You may feel a sensation of pressure in your pelvic area when inserting the speculum into your vagina. With the aid of a soft brush and spatula, the doctor takes samples of your cervical cells.

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After The Pap Smear Test

You can go about your day without any restriction after your Pap smear test. There are two types of Pap smear test; a liquid-based Pap test and conventional Pap test. In liquid-based Pap test, the sample collected from the cervix is preserved in a container holding a special liquid while the sample is preserved on a glass slide in a conventional Pap smear test. At Gynae UK we only use the liquid based pap test to maintain the best quality of sample.

Liquid-based Pap smear test, allows your doctor to thoroughly study the sample and check for the presence of viruses such as HPV that promote the development of cervical cancer. The abnormal cells that are found may not be of any concern if there are no high-risk viruses present, but further testing may be required if the viruses present pose greater risk.

The samples are transferred to a laboratory for observation under a microscope. The samples are thoroughly observed for cancerous or precancerous cell characteristics.

Results

A Pap smear test aims to check for abnormal cells in the cervix that needs to be tested further. Your Pap smear test result is either normal or abnormal.

Normal results

Your Pap smear result is said to be negative if only normal cervical cells were found during your Pap smear test. When this is the case, there will be no further treatment or testing until when you are due for another Pap smear test or pelvic examination. Pap smear test can be taken every three years or every five years if it is combined with the HPV test.

Abnormal Results

Your Pap smear result is said to be positive if abnormal or unusual cells were found during your Pap smear test. This doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer — the type of cell found in your test determines what your positive result means.

There are different terms the doctor uses to interpret your result. The term he or she uses will determine the next line of action. These terms include:

  • Typical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS): Squamous cells are thin and flat; they grow on the surface of a healthy cervix. Pap smear test is seen as slightly abnormal in the case of ASCUS, but just that the changes do not show that there are precancerous cells.
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion: This term shows that the cells are precancerous. When the changes are low grade, it is an indication that the size, shape and other characteristics of the cells have a precancerous lesion, but it will take years to develop into cancer.

The precancerous lesion on the cells may develop into cancer sooner if the changes are high grade. If this is the case, further testing needs to be carried out.

  • Typical glandular cells: Glandular cells grow in the opening of your cervix and within your uterus. These cells may be slightly abnormal but not certain if they are cancerous. The doctor may need additional testing to determine the source of the abnormal cells and what they mean.
  • Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells: “Squamous cell cancer” are cancers that are growing on the flat surface of the vagina while “adenocarcinoma” are cancers growing in the glandular cells. This result of the Pap smear test shows that the cells are very abnormal, and cancer is present. Prompt evaluation and treatment are highly needed if these cells are discovered in your Pap smear test.

Colposcopy may be required if your Pap smear test is abnormal. This procedure uses a magnifying instrument known as colposcope to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva. A biopsy may also be taken from the abnormal areas for further testing and diagnosis in the laboratory.

Contact Gynae UK

Do you need to know if you are free from cervical cancer? Take your Pap smear test with Gynae UK today. For enquiry, please call 02071830692 or send us a mail via info@gynaeuk.com.

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