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Last Updated: Mar 23, 2020
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Pap Smear: Purpose, Preparation, Procedure, Results and Frequency

About Procedure Prerequisites Eligibility Frequency Side effects Recovery Cost Results Alternatives

What is pap smear test?

A pap smear a test carried out which is necessary for early cancer detection in women. The test not only screens for cervical cancer in women but is also designed to detect abnormal cells in the cervix in order to determine the patient’s predisposition for developing cancer.

How is pap smear test done?

A pap smear involves taking cells from your cervix and testing them for abnormalities. The test only lasts for ten to twenty minutes and your results are confirmed between five days to two weeks.

When you go in for the test you are asked questions about your medical history after which you have to lie on a table with your feet placed in stirrups. A speculum is inserted into your vagina in order to widen the opening. The doctor then takes a swab to collect a sample of cells and then places the cells in a liquid substance. After this is over, your sample is tested in a lab and your results are made available to you in a few days. While you may feel some discomfort during the test, there is no lasting soreness or pain.

If the test is negative, it indicates that there are no abnormal cells in your cervix and you can return for another routine pap smear in three to five years. If the test is positive, Further tests might include tests such as a colonoscopy. Cell abnormalities, however, are often caused due to inflammation, so it is not necessarily an indicator of the development of precancerous cells. HPV tests are often conducted at the same time as a pap smear, as it is extremely common for sexually active adults to contract the STD.

Is it painful to have a Pap smear?

Pap smear is a simple, quick and painless screening procedure which is done to check for cancer or precancer symptoms of the uterine cervix. Pap smear is not painful but is an uncomfortable process and it gets over quickly.

What is the best time to do pap smear?

Pap smear should be done after the two weeks of the start of the menstrual periods because during menstrual periods it becomes hard for the doctor to do the test properly and the presence of blood may interfere with the result of the test. If we talk about the perfect age then the women aged between 21-65 should have pap tested every three years. If the woman is above the age of 65 then she should go for a Pap test every 5 years.

What should I expect at my first Pap smear?

Pap smear is a process performed at the office of the doctor and takes only a few minutes to perform. During the test you are told to lie down on the table, bending the knee and heels on the stirrups and then gently an instrument is named speculum is inserted in your vagina to hold it apart so that the cervix is easily visible. Then the doctor with the help of a spatula, will take samples of your cervical cells. This process usually does not hurt and less time taking.

Does a pap smear hurt if you are a virgin?

If you are a virgin then pap smear does not hurt and does not bring any change in the virginity of a woman as the hymen is not affected and the smear can be removed easily.

Why does pap smear hurt?

Pap smear should not hurt technically but there can be acute pain and there can be uncomfortable feelings while having the procedure.

What do I need to do before a Pap smear?

Before having a pap smear you must avoid sexual intercourse, using any vaginal cream or spray, douching, spermicidal foam, two days before having a pap smear.

Do I need to shave for a Pap smear?

It is nor necessary to shave before a pap smear because there is no change in the result whether you are waxed or not it is all the same.

What age should you get a Pap smear?

The age of getting a pap smear depends upon the sexual activity of the women. You can have your pap tested between the age of 21-30 in every three years as they are at the risk of having cervical cancer. If you are sexually active before the age of 21 then you should have your pap test.

Who needs a Pap smear?

If you are sexually active and between the age of 21-30 then you should have a pap smear because sexual activity increases the risk of having cervical cancer. Though cervical cancer takes 10-20 years to develop it must be checked every three years.

How often do you need a Pap smear?

Pap smear test frequency depends on various factors like :

  • If you are less than 21 then pap smear is not needed.
  • If you are aged between 21-29 then you must get a pap smear every three years.
  • If your age is between 30-65 years then an HPV test every 3 or 5 years is suggested.
  • You can also get a combined Pap and HPV test every 5 years.
  • If your age is 65 or above that, then you may not need pap smear after that.

Are there any side effects?

There are no negative effects of getting a pap smear. Women under the age of 21 are recommended not to get pap smears as it could delay the detection of cancer or HPV. There is no soreness or pain after the test procedure is completed, so you can get back to your daily activities immediately after.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

While you might temporarily feel some soreness after your test, you can continue with your daily routine after a Pap Smear. There is no aftercare required post-procedure. You can expect to get your test results within two weeks of undergoing the test. Once your doctor has your test results, they can suggest whether or not you need any follow-up tests based on any abnormalities they may have found. If your test is completely negative, you can just go back for your next pap smear three to five years later.

How long does it take to recover?

You can resume your day to day activities immediately after the test as there is no physical strain during the test.

What is the cost of pap smear test in India?

The test can cost between Rs. 200 and Rs. 1500 depending on the area in which you live and the cost of medical care in the area.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The test is to be repeated every three to five years.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

A pap smear is a routine cancer screening test. There are no alternatives to it.

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Regular pap tests i.e., Tests which look for any signs of cervical cancer should be conducted regularly so that it can be detected at its initial stage and can be treated accordingly.

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