What is Pap Smear?
Pap smear or pap test is a simple procedure that sees the abnormal cell changes in the cervix. The cervix is located at the top of the vagina and it is the lowest part of the uterus. Precancerous cells are detected by the pap smear test. These cells can be removed before they get an opportunity to develop into cervical cancer and this test helps to save a life.
Cervical cancer or the cancer of the cervix is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death among women. By having regular Papanicolaou tests (Pap smears) or cervical cytology one can easily detect cervical cancer. Pap is a shortened version of Dr George Papanicolaou, the doctor who is well known for developing the screening test.
Viral infections can be detected by pap tests like human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer. Treatment done at an early stage of precancerous on pap smear can prevent cervical cancer before it develops fully. A woman may have cervical cancer and may not know as there are no symptoms associated with it.
Over the years, the occurrence of cancer and deaths for cervical cancer has declined by the early detection, prevention, and screening by the Pap smear test. Most of the abnormal pap smear while pregnant results prove the early stages of the disease and should be observed by a well-qualified doctor.
What to expect during your Pap test
No real preparation is needed but few things should be kept in mind which can affect Pap test results. Following things should be avoided two days before your scheduled test to derive accurate results:-
- Vaginal suppositories, medicines, creams or douches.
- Powders, sprays or menstrual products.
- Sexual intercourse.
Pap test can be done during your period and it is better if you schedule it between periods.
Pap test is similar to the pelvic test examination. The patient will be asked to lie on the table with your feet in stirrups. With the use of a speculum the vagina is opened and this will allow your doctor to see the cervix. The abnormal pap during pregnancy does not seem to increase the progression of abdominal cervical cell changes.
The doctor will make use of a swab to remove a few cells from your cervix. These cells will be placed on a glass slide that will be sent to a lab for testing. This test may be a bit uncomfortable but is usually painless. The whole procedure takes only a few minutes.
Understanding your Results –
Within a week or two you will receive your results. In most of the cases, the result is a ‘normal’ pap smear, meaning that there is no evidence of any abnormal cervical cells and you do not need to think about this until your next scheduled test.
If the test received is not a normal test, it does not mean that you have cancer and also does not mean that there is anything wrong. Test results can be inconclusive and are sometimes known as ASC-US meaning atypical scally cells of undetermined significance. The cells do not look quite like a normal cell but also cannot be classified as abnormal.