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A procedure in which cells are carefully removed from the cervix using a small brush or spatula to examine them under a microscope for signs of cervical cancer or cell mutations that could lead to the development of cervical cancer. In addition, a Pap smear can help detect other conditions such as infection or inflammation.
Women should begin obtaining pap smears at the age of 21 to detect cervical cancer. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 who have a normal pap smear test should only have it redone every three years after that. Women over the age of 30 should have their cervical smears checked for the human papillomavirus (HPV) presence.
Cervical cancer can be detected earlier and treated more effectively using a Pap smear. Additionally, a Pap smear can detect changes in your cervix’s cells that indicate the development of cancer in the future. Preventing cervical cancer is the first step in preventing it from forming. This is accomplished by discovering abnormal cells as early as possible with a Pap test.
If you have specific risk factors, your doctor may suggest more frequent Pap smears regardless of your age. These risk factors include the following:
In some circumstances, a woman and her doctor may decide to discontinue Pap testing, such as the following:
To maximize the effectiveness of your Pap smear, follow these guidelines prior to your test:
What to anticipate throughout the Pap smear
A Pap smear is a simple procedure that takes only a few minutes at your doctor’s office. You may be asked to remove your entire garment or only your waist.
On an exam table, you’ll lie on your back with your knees bent. Stirrups support your heels.
Your doctor will place a little device known as a speculum softly into your vagina. The speculum separates the walls of your vagina, allowing your doctor easy access to your cervix. When the speculum is inserted, you may experience a pressing sensation in your pelvic area.
Then, your doctor will collect cervical cell samples using a soft brush and a flat scraping device called a spatula. This is usually not painful.
Following your Pap smear, you can resume your normal activities.
Depending on the type of Pap test you’re having, your doctor will transfer the cell sample retrieved from your cervix into a container containing a particular liquid to preserve the sample (liquid-based Pap test) or onto a glass slide (glass slide-based Pap test) (conventional Pap smear).
The samples are then sent to a laboratory to study cell features that signal cancer or a precancerous condition.
Inquire with your physician when you can expect the results of your test.
A Pap smear can detect the presence of abnormal cells that require additional testing.
If your Pap smear reveals exclusively normal cervical cells, you are considered to have a negative result. You will not require further treatment or testing until your next Pap smear and pelvic exam are due.
A positive result indicates that abnormal or atypical cells were detected during your Pap smear. A positive test does not necessarily indicate that you have cervical cancer. What a positive result indicates varies according to the cell type detected throughout your examination.
If your Pap smear is abnormal, your doctor may perform a colposcopy technique in which the tissues of the cervix, vagina, and vulva are examined using a unique magnifying device (colposcope).
Additionally, your doctor may do a tissue biopsy on any spots that appear suspicious. After that, the tissue sample is sent to a laboratory for investigation and confirmation of the diagnosis.