Pap Smear For Screening Of Cervical Cancer - What Women Need To Know?
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When these abnormal cells are present in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer, or cancer of the cervix.
Screening Prevents Cervical Cancer and Saves Lives:
The Pap test can find abnormal cells in the cervix. These cells may, over time, turn into cancer. This could take several years to happen. If the results of a Pap test show there are abnormal cells that could become cancerous, a woman can be treated. In most cases, this treatment prevents cervical cancer from developing.
Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early. When it is found early, the chance of being cured is very high. The most important thing you can do to avoid getting cervical cancer is to have regular Pap tests.
Any woman who has a cervix can get cervical cancer, especially if she or her sexual partner has had sex with several other partners. Most often, cervical cancer develops in women aged 40 or older. Abnormal cells in the cervix and cervical cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. That’s why getting tested for cervical cancer is important, even if there are no symptoms.
What is the Pap Test?
The Pap test, also called the Pap smear, is a cervical cancer screening test. It is not used to detect other kinds of cancer. It is done in a doctor’s office or a clinic.
During the test, the doctor or nurse uses a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen the vagina. This helps to examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells from the cervix. These cells are placed on a slide and sent to a laboratory to be checked for abnormal cells.
Who Should Have a Pap Test?
Doctors recommend that women begin having regular Pap tests and pelvic exams at age 21, or within three years of the first time they have sexual intercourse – whichever happens first. After a woman has a Pap test each year for three years in a row, and test results show there are no problems, she can then get the Pap test once every 2-3 years.
Who Does Not Need to be Tested?
The only women who do not need regular Pap tests are:
- Those over age 65 who have had regular Pap tests with normal results
- Women who do not have a cervix. This includes women whose cervix was removed as part of an operation to remove the uterus. (The surgery is called a hysterectomy.) However, a small number of women who have had this operation still have a cervix and should continue having regular Pap tests. If you’re not sure whether you have a cervix, speak to your doctor about it.
How Do I Prepare for the Pap Test?
To prepare for the Pap test, doctors recommend that for two days before the test you should avoid:
- Using tampons
- Having sexual intercourse
- Using birth control foams, creams, or jellies or vaginal medications or creams
Try to schedule your Pap test for a time when you are not having your menstrual period.
When Will I Get the Results?
It can take up to three weeks to receive Pap test results. Most results are normal. There are many reasons that Pap test results can be abnormal, and usually it does not mean you have cancer.