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What is Pap Smear and Its Testing?

A Pap smear is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women or any abnormal cells. Pap smear testing involves collecting cells from the cervix. Most doctors prefer to combine this test with human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that leads to cervical cancer. But it’s mostly recommended for women over 30 years and above. 

Who Needs A Pap Smear Testing?

Every woman aged 21 and above should get a Pap test to detect precancerous or cancerous cells early enough. 

It’s ideal for visiting an OB/GYN to determine how often you should go for testing. But doctors generally advise repeat Pap testing every three years for 21 and above years. 

But women from 30 years combining Pap with HPV can have that after five years. In some cases, they can only have HPV alone. 

However, if your doctor or Pap smear panorama finds certain risk factors, he may recommend frequent tests. Below are factors that might contribute to this:

  • A patient was diagnosed with cervical cancer before. 
  • Pap smear results showed precancerous cells
  • HIV patient
  • A person with a history of smoking.
  • People exposed to DES before birth
  • There is a weak immune system due to an organ transplant, chemo, or other diseases.

What to Expect

Many people avoid Pap smear testing because they believe it’s a painful procedure. But just like any other test, it will feel a little uncomfortable as it’s a new experience. It’s like a pinch, though people express it differently. 

But this is usually a quick procedure performed in a doctor’s office. When you get to your gyno’s office, this is what will happen:

First, you’ll undress and lie on your back, and then he will have your heels supported by a device called stirrups. 

Once you’re comfortable, the practitioner will gently insert a speculum into your vagina. It’s an instrument that holds the walls of your vagina apart to allow your doctor to see your cervix. During the insertion, you may feel sensational pressure in your pelvic area.

He will collect the cervical cells samples using a soft brush and a spatula. He will transfer the pieces into a container and take them to a lab for examination. And they check for characteristics in the cells that may indicate cancer or precancerous cells using a microscope. 

Pap Smear Test Results

Most Pap tests come back from the lab after a week or three weeks. But it would be best to ask your doctor when you’re likely to expect. Then your doctor helps you understand what the results mean. You may also request to get a call once they come out. 

Normal Results

When these show a negative result, you have normal cervical cells. So, you don’t require repeat Pap smear testing until your next scheduled usual Pap smear appointment. 

Abnormal Results

When the Pap test shows positive results, this detects abnormal or unusual cells. It will depend on the type of cells discovered in that test, but it’s a sign of cervical cancer. 

And after the discovery of these abnormal cells, your doctor may also do a colposcopy test.

He uses a magnifying instrument (colposcope) that examines the cervix, vagina, and vulva tissues. Or, he can take a tissue sample (biopsy) from a particular area appearing abnormal. Then he will take the tissue sample to a laboratory for further analysis and get a definitive diagnosis.

In Conclusion

Pap smear panorama helps detect and find cancerous cells early, saving lives. And since these take time to develop, it’s ideal to have regular testing as advised by your doctor. If you’ve not started going for Pap tests and you’re of age, please do so for your health benefit. It’s a quick procedure, and you can have it in a doctor’s office and proceed with your daily routine. Remember, the earlier the diagnosis, the better.