The Pap smear is a simple test that is done to collect a few cells from the cervix and help to diagnose precancerous and cancerous conditions of the cervix. It also aids in diagnosing infections of the lower reproductive tract.
Who should get the Pap test done?
As per the International recommendations, women above the age of 21 years can get the pap test.
If you are 30 years and above Pap test should be done once in every 3 years till you turn 65 years of age. If this test is combined with HPV test, then the test may be repeated every 5 years.
Women who do not routinely require Pap test
· Women aged less than 21 years and above 65 years
· Women who had their womb removed for non-cancerous conditions
What is the right time for a Pap test?
The Pap test yields optimum results if scheduled between 10 to 20 days from the first day of menstrual period. The woman should not be menstruating at the time of test.
Preparation for Pap smear
You should avoid the following for 48 hours before the Pap test:
· Douching of vagina
· Vaginal medications
· Vaginal contraceptives like creams/ jellies
An instrument called a speculum is gently introduced into the vagina to visualize the cervix. There may be some discomfort or cramping during the procedure, but it is usually not painful.
· A small wooden stick or spatula is used to gently scrape the surface of the lower part of the cervix to pick up cells.
· A special brush, called a cytobrush is used to obtain cells from the inner part of the cervix.
· The cells are placed on a glass slide, immediately fixed in ethanol and sent to laboratory for further processing and interpretation.
Results of Pap test
A Pap test result may be reported as normal or abnormal.
· Normal Pap test
If the test report is normal, this means no abnormal or cancerous cells have been found in the smear taken.
· Abnormal Pap tests
Abnormal Pap test results do not mean that the woman has cancer. If results of the Pap test are unclear or show a mild abnormality in the cells of the cervix, your doctor may repeat the Pap test in 6 weeks, in 6 months or a year, or run more tests. Treating abnormal cells that don’t go away on their own can prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer. Treatment of this abnormality is often done in an out-patient department (OPD)