What is a Pap Test?
A Pap Test also known as Pap Smear is a test that is performed by doctors to check if the patient has cervical cancer. This test can also help in exposing the changes happening in the cervical cells in women, as it has the ability to transform into cancer in the future.
When is Pap Test done?
A Pap Test is recommended to be performed regularly to prevent cancerous cells from developing in the cervix. Treating cancer is easier when it is detected earliest. Finding the cancer cells that are causing drastic changes in the cervical cells before it grows and spread helps in fighting them effectively.
It is advised by Doctors to women between the ages of 21 to 65 have Pap Test to be done as regular check-ups. According to your body's health condition, your doctor will ask you to perform Pap Smear to track the changes.
What are the tests to be done for cervical cancer?
Once every 3 years period, the Pap Test should be done for women between the ages of 21 to 65 respectively. Women can combine the Pap Smear Test with the HPV test also known as the Human Papillomavirus test every 5 years from the age of 30 years. This HPV test is commonly required for testing the sexually transmitted infection, which will lead to cervical cancer.
In some cases, if the patient has certain symptoms and health issues, they will be asked to perform Pap Tests more often. We have listed a few of the Health Issues:
- If your previous Pap Test has shown traces of precancerous cells, then your Doctor will recommend Pap Smear to be done more often to track its growth.
- HIV Infection
- If you have been exposed to DES or Diethylstilbestrol condition before birth.
- You will be asked by Doctors to do the Pap Smear frequently if your immunity has been weakened due to chemotherapy, organ transplant surgery or severe corticosteroid usage, etc.
- It is vital that you ask about all your concerns and doubts with your Doctors before performing the tests.
How to prepare for Pap Tests?
Avoid performing Pap Tests when you are having your menstrual periods. Bleeding might affect and hinder the accuracy of the results. Consult with your Doctor to reschedule the day of the month. If your test is scheduled for the menstrual time of the month, ask your doctor if they can reschedule it for the next month.
Precautions are to be taken 48 hours before the Pap Test
Doctors will advise you to follow a few steps 48 hours before taking the test, to get accurate Pap Test results.
- Avoid using any powders or sprays in the vagina.
- Avoid using any lubricants or having sex.
- Do not insert or thrust into your vagina anything such as creams, medications, tampons etc.
- Avoid rinsing your vagina with vinegar or water or any fluids.
How the Pap Test process is performed?
The Pap Test will be performed in the Hospital under the proper guidance of your gynecologist. The procedure will be completed in a 10 to 30 minutes period. Following is the step by step Pap Test process guide for your reference.
- You will be made to lie down on the operation table with your feet firmly placed in stirrups.
- Your legs will be spread and the surgeon will insert a speculum a plastic or metal tool into your vagina.
- This tool helps in opening and widening the walls of your vagina.
- The gynecologist will gather a sample of the cervical cells using a swab.
- These samples are placed into a jar containing a certain liquid substance and are sent to the laboratory for further examination.
- Pap Test is not painful, but you might feel slight discomfort and pressure.
Results of the Pap Test
Pap Test results will be sent within a few days. The results may be positive which means the presence of cancerous abnormalities and negative results meaning your cervical cells are absolutely normal.
The negative result of the Pap Test
If you receive Pap Test results with a Negative result, it means that you are absolutely normal. The Test results show that your doctor did not find any traces of cancerous or precancerous cells present on your cervix. Doctors will not ask you to conduct the Pap tests again and can be performed as regular health check-ups every 3 months.
Positive Pap Test results
If you receive a positive result for the test, do not get worried because it does not mean that you have cervical cancer. This abnormal Pap Test might be due to various health issues such as the following:
- Mild changes in the cells or inflammation
- Some infections or HPV
- Cancer or precancerous cells present
- Sometimes the results might be due to laboratory test errors.
Abnormal inflammation or changes in the cells might be due to various issues. If you had used a diaphragm or had sex before the Pap Test, the results might be positive due to minor cell changes or inflammation.
In such cases, your doctor may ask you to wait a few months and take the Pap Test once again. If the results showed positive and the abnormal minor cells remain in the body, then your Doctor may immediately recommend more tests such as colposcopy. With advancements made in medical technology along with highly qualified Doctors, cervical cancers can be treated efficiently. Seek support and enjoy good health!