Pap smear is a method in which a small brush gently removes cells from the cervix and the area around the cervix. The primary purpose of this test is to check or screen for cervical cancer and, therefore, help find any pre-cancer.You can check Pap smear Cost here.
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What is Pap Smear?
Pap smear is a method in which a small brush gently removes cells from the cervix and the area around the cervix. The primary purpose of this test is to check or screen for cervical cancer and, therefore, help find any pre-cancer.
Anatomy and Physiology
In the female body, there is a cylinder-shaped neck of tissue that connects the vagina and uterus, known as the cervix. It is located below the uterus, composed primarily of fibromuscular tissue.
How is Pap Smear Performed?
- This procedure is done on female patients to check the health of the cells in the cervical area and areas around it. It is the most commonly done test for cervical cancer.
- The recommended age for the procedure is 25 or above. However, it is up to women and the doctors to decide the right age for getting a pap smear. (If someone has a weak immune system due to chemotherapy or HIV, they might need to get tested earlier and more frequently.)
- How often a female patient needs to undergo a pap smear is dependent on various factors such as age and risk. The general recommendation is about every three years. However, women older than 30 can also consider getting tested every five years. For women over the age of 65, there may not be any requirement for pap smears. This should be decided upon consultation with a doctor.
During Pap Smear:
- During a Pap smear, the female patients lie on their back with their legs spread on the examination table, their feet are kept on stirrups.
- The doctor slowly inserts a device known as a speculum, into the vagina that keeps the vaginal walls open.
- The doctor then uses a brush to scrape a small sample of cells from the cervix.
- The sample is then placed in a container and sent for testing.
- A patient might feel uncomfortable during the test. However, it’s a rapid test that's done within minutes.
What to Expect Before Pap Smear?
- To prepare for a pap smear, you should first speak to a gynaecologist to know your needs.
- Avoid getting a pap smear done on the same days while menstruating, as it can give false results.
- Try to keep yourself calm and relaxed while going in for a pap smear, this helps the procedure go smoothly due to the relaxed cervical muscles.
- It is also recommended to avoid having sex or inserting anything into the vagina for 48 hours before the test.
What to Expect after Pap Smear?
- Usually, there might be mild discomfort after the test due to the scraping. You may also experience cramping and light vaginal bleeding immediately following the test.
- Although all of these signs and symptoms subside within the next couple of hours, if the bleeding and discomfort continue the next day, you should speak to your doctor.
- After the test, it is recommended to rest for up to the next two days and avoid having sex or inserting anything inside the vagina, including tampons. In cramps, use hot water bottles or take medicines such as ibuprofen.
There are two possible results of a pap smear.
- If the results come normal, i.e., no abnormal cells were identified from the sample taken, no test is needed for the next three years.
- If the test comes back abnormal, it does not directly mean that one has cancer. It merely means that there were some abnormal cells found which could be precancerous as well based on the level of abnormality of the cells. The doctor may recommend getting more frequent pap smears or conducting a procedure called a colposcopy to get a better look at the cervical tissue.
When you should see a doctor for a pap smear?
You should visit a doctor if it has been three years since you had a pap smear and your age is apt for the test. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible for a pap smear in the following cases:
- Vaginal bleeding when you are not on your period
- Extreme heavy periods
- Vaginal discharge with unusual or with a foul odour
- Painful Sex
- Pain while urination
- A lot of pelvic and back pain
Frequently Asked Questions
Myths and Facts of Pap Smear
Myth: Pap smear is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) test.
Fact: A Pap smear is a test used to check the health of the cervix and the areas around it, such as the colon. While getting checked for sexually transmitted infection, a person may be asked to undergo a pap smear but by itself is not made for STI detection.
Myth: Pap smears is an extremely painful procedure.
Fact: In reality, a pap smear is a quick procedure undertaken by thousands of women yearly. Yes, the procedure is uncomfortable, but it will last only for a few minutes and any discomfort felt is temporary.
Myth: Pap smear is an HPV test.
Fact: Pap smear can help in detecting HPV. Pap smears do not detect HPV specifically. Pap smears can detect if the cells around and in the cervix are performing normally and can be used primarily for the timely detection of cervical cancer.
Myth: If you get a Pap smear before having sex, it means you are not a virgin.
Fact: This myth is problematic on two accounts. First, a lot of people associate virginity with hymen breaking, which is not accurate. Virginity has no relation with the breaking of the hymen. In many cases, hymens break during physical activities, and many are born without one. Secondly, it is extremely unlikely that the device used by doctors during a pap smear could break the hymen. If that is a point of concern, speaking to your doctor beforehand can ensure that the hymen remains unaffected.
Myth: If a person has only one sexual partner, they do not need to get pap smears.
Fact: This is a myth as the pap smear has nothing to do with the number of sexual partners you have and is only used to test how your cells perform.