Women are special in every way, even in the context of good health and disease prevention. To ensure that all is fine, regular health check-ups are important. Getting recommended health checks at a relevant time is all the more important for detecting diseases at an early stage and effectively treating them. Pap smear or pap test is a reliable screening tool that talks about abnormal cervical changes in women. Detecting these changes at an early stage is crucial since their unnoticed progression may result in cervical cancer.
What is Pap Smear?
Pap smear is a screening procedure that detects abnormal cell growth in the cervix. The cervix is the opening of the uterus and its external continuation is the vagina. The Pap smear procedure is usually done during a pelvic exam so it demands you to lie down straight on your back. You lie down in an examination table with your legs spread and feet resting in stirrup support. A speculum is inserted slowly into your vagina so that its walls widen and there is access to reach the cervix. Using a cotton swab or a cytobrush, cells from the cervical surface are scraped and collected. The collected sample is examined for any abnormal cell growth.
Is a Pap Smear procedure painful?
Slight discomfort or irritation during scrapping is usual with this procedure. Sometimes mild vaginal bleeding and cramping are also seen immediately after the procedure. But if the bleeding doesn’t stop after a day, it is advisable to consult the physician. You are not alone if you get confused about whether you need to go for the procedure or not, because this decision requires a medical practitioner’s help. Leading solution providers can help us in this regard with their medical expertise and clear cut reasoning.
Why should I go for a pap smear?
Abnormal cervical changes may or may not be accompanied by apparent symptoms. Moreover, unlike acne or pimple, abnormal cervical cell growth is not visible to the naked eye as it is an internal process. Experts from Greater New Haven OB/GYN opine that only a reliable screening procedure like Pap smear can notify us and our physician about the health of our cervix. Once we come to know about an abnormality in the cervix, we can take preventive measures like following it up periodically with our physician’s guidance.
Can I go for a Pap smear on any day?
Through the vagina cervix is accessed during a pap smear procedure, the vaginal area should be clean without the presence of any external particles. It is advisable to avoid sexual intercourse or douching a couple of days before the procedure. Pap smear is also withheld during menstruating days to match with accuracy.
How often should I take up a Pap Smear?
Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest women should take up Pap smear screening from age 21. Pap smear is also recommended within three years of first sexual intercourse. So the commencement of Pap smear depends on first sexual intercourse or age 21, whichever comes first. After this, it should be repeated once every three years. Pap smears can be repeated once every five years if it combines Human Papilloma Virus or HPV test. The American Cancer Society reinforces women aged 30 years or above to be screened for pap smear along with HPV test. This combination would be more accurate for detecting abnormal cervical lesions which may progress to cervical cancer. It is so because HPV is the sexually transmitted infection that more often is linked with cervical cancer.
Repeating Pap smears once in 3 years above age 30 is a norm if three consecutive screening results are indicative towards normal. But this frequency is shortened in case of the following:
- Abnormal cervical cell growth or precancerous lesion is seen in the previous Pap smear.
- The immune system is compromised due to prolonged medication use, especially corticosteroids. Chemotherapy or organ transplant could also bring down immunity.
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol or DES before birth.
How should I understand my Pap smear result?
If the results are negative for abnormal cell growth, then it is normal. The abnormal result will indicate a positive outcome for atypical cell growth, which may or may not be precancerous.
Prevention is always better than cure, but to prevent something we will have to first detect it. This holds true even for cervical cancer as with any other health issues in the cervical area of women. Value your cervical health and know its disturbances early through a pap smear