Pap smear test (also known as Pap test) is a screening test for cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can almost always be prevented, and having regular Pap tests is the key to this. Pap test is a medical procedure in which a sample of cells from woman's cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina) is collected and smeared (spread) on a microscope slide in order to look for cancers and precancers. Precancers are cell changes that might become cancer if they are not treated on the right time using the right way.
A Pap smear is a simple, quick, and relatively painless screening test. Two peculiar traits of Pap smear test are; its specificity, which means its ability to avoid a "false positive" result and its sensitivity, which means its ability to detect every single abnormality. Thus, there is a rare chance of developing a Cervical Cancer if you have having regular Pap smear test.
Who need and need not to have a Pap test?
Women aged 21 to 65 should get Pap tests as part of routine health care. Even if you are not currently sexually active, Pap test is still recommended. Women who have gone through menopause and below the age of 65 still need regular Pap tests.
Women who had undergone Total Hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix) and who does not have a history of cervical cancer or abnormal Pap results, do not need Pap tests. Also women aged 65 and above who have had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal test results in the last 10 years do not need Pap tests.
How to Prepare for the Test:
Let your gynecologist know about all the medicines you are taking. Some birth control pills that contain estrogen or progestin may interfere with test results.
Also let them know if you:
• Have had an abnormal Pap smear in the past, or
• Might be pregnant
Things need to be avoided before 24 hours of the test:
• Douche (device used to introduce a stream of water into the body for medical or hygienic reasons)
• Have sexual intercourse
• Take a bath
• Use tampons
• Use vaginal creams, deodorant sprays or powders.
It’s not recommendable to get a Pap test done during your menstrual cycle. The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.
How is Pap test performed?
It is a simple and quick test. You will lie down on an exam table. Gynecologist will put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina and will open it to see your cervix and she will then use a special stick or brush to take a few cells from the surface of and inside the cervix. The cells are placed on a glass slide and sent to a lab for testing. A Pap test may be mildly uncomfortable but should not be painful. You may have some spotting afterwards.
When will I get the results of my Pap test?
Usually your tests reports will be ready the very next day. Most of the time, test results are normal. If the test shows that something might be wrong, you will be contacted by your doctor to schedule more tests. There are many reasons for abnormal Pap test results. BUT ABNORMAL PAP TEST RESULTS DO NOT ALWAYS MEAN YOU HAVE CANCER.