Pap Smear: A way to Prevent Cervical Cancer in Women
Cervical cancer is preventable, detectable, and treatable. But still, it is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women, worldwide. India alone accounts for 1/3rd of the total global cervical cancer deaths where 200 women die daily due to cervical cancer.
Why is this so?
Well, the major reason that accounts for this to happen is- “No Early Detection or Diagnosis of the Disease Due To Lack Of Awareness About The Screening Tests Among Women And General Population”. Hence, creating such awareness about the screening tests of cancer becomes necessary at every stage of the health care system and women should be encouraged to have yearly gynecological check-ups and the necessary screening tests like PAP Smear for cervical cancer.
In this article, all the necessary details about pap smears are discussed.
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap test is done in a part of a uterus called the cervix (mouth of the uterus). Pap Smear or pap test is basically a screening test to detect cervical cancer at its earlier stage so that proper treatment can be advised for the best results and life of women. The test takes only a few minutes to be performed.
How it is done?
After giving a proper position, a speculum is inserted in the vagina for proper visualization of the cervix. With the help of a disposable wooden spatula, cells from the external cervix are collected and spread on a glass slide and fixed with a fixator. A similar procedure is carried out on the internal part of the cervix called the Endocervix and a glass slide is prepared in a similar manner. Slides labeled properly are sent to the laboratory for examination. Typically, the results may take one or two days to arrive.
Little discomfort or pressure may be felt in the vagina by some patients during the procedure.
Other than identifying abnormal or cancerous cells, a Pap test also can be helpful in diagnosing infections or inflammation of the cervix.
How often should you get your Pap Smear done?
Well, the answer to this question basically depends on your age, medical history, and your previous pap reports.
It is essential to go for a yearly health check-up and visit a gynecologist to maintain your health. Screening tests are essential with the increasing age. A Pap smear is advisable for women of ages ranging from 21 to 65. Common recommendations are:
- Before 21: It is advised to start getting your pap smears from the age you become sexually active.
- 21 to 24 years: It is recommended to get a pap test done every three years, but only if your test results are normal.
Otherwise, get your test done as suggested by the physician depending upon the abnormal results.
- The same is applicable to women between 25 to 65 years.
- Above 65, with the declining risk for women with normal screening results, further pap tests may not be advisable.
However, women with a weak immune system, cervical issues, and risk factors should get the tests done frequently and regularly as suggested by the physician. These risk factors involve
- An abnormal pap smear that showed the development of precancerous cells
- Exposure to DES when in the mother’s womb
- Infection like HIV
- History of smoking
- Organ transplant or chemotherapy
- Chronic corticosteroid use
How to prepare for your first Pap Test?
It is quite natural to have fears, anxiety, and concerns before undergoing the first pap test. However, the best gynaecologists in Nashik at Arias, make every effort to release your stress and alleviate anxiety through proper counseling before the test is conducted.
Precautions to be taken while scheduling your appointment:
- Be sure to get your pap smear done on a day other than your periods/menses when you are not at all bleeding.
- Make sure to avoid any vaginal intercourse, douching, or application of any medicine in that area prior to the test. Because this may hamper your test results.
What After the Pap smear results arrive?
There are two possibilities: One, that your pap smear test is normal, and the second, that it is abnormal.
If the test results are normal, then, there is no need to worry and you can just stick to the regular testing routine as mentioned above.
However, if the test results are abnormal, just don’t panic. In case, the changes are minor due to some infections or inflammation of the cervix, the doctor will suggest you the treatment accordingly. But if the changes are major or more serious (precancerous cells/lesions), the doctor will advise you to undergo a Colposcopy or Biopsy, whichever is necessary to rule out or confirm any cancerous changes. Because at this stage the decision and the complete course of further treatment become crucial.
Prevention is better than cure and hence it is essential to undergo screening tests like Pap smear from time to time. At Arias, the Best Gynecology Hospital in Nashik, we always recommend women get their pap tests done regularly for a stress-free and healthy life ahead. Register today for a free well-woman camp.