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Pap Smear - Its Role In Cancer Screening!

Dr. Tripti Raheja 87% (10 ratings)
M.R.C.O.G. (LONDON) Gold Medalist, MD - Obstetrics & Gynaecology , MBBS
Gynaecologist, Delhi  •  22 years experience
Pap Smear - Its Role In Cancer Screening!

Cervical cancer can throw life completely off balance. It is one of the most common types of cancer affecting women worldwide. Lack of an early diagnosis makes this life threatening condition almost untreatable. A Pap smear also referred to as a Pap Test comes as a ray of hope for many women.

A Pap smear is a screening test that plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and detection of cervical cancer in women. A Pap smear may further be used to point out any abnormalities in the cervical cells which may have a potential to turn malignant in the future. Doctors recommend all women (between 21-65 years of age) to undergo a pap smear to be on the safer side. While most women are advised to repeat the pap smear between every 3-5 years, women with the following conditions or ailments should be extra careful.

  1. Women who are HIV positive or those with a weak immune system.
  2. Those who have undergone an organ transplant.
  3. Any woman whose pap smear indicates the presence of precancerous cells.
  4. Women who had chemotherapy sessions.

The above mentioned conditions do not necessarily imply a 100% probability of cervical cancer. Consult your doctor and follow the necessary advice and precautions.

The procedure involved in a Pap smear
The Pap test is not a very tedious process and is often carried out in the doctor's clinic itself. The person to undergo the test is made to lie down on her back (the knees should be in a bent position). The physician then carefully inserts a speculum into the vagina. The main idea is to widen the vaginal walls so that the doctor can have a clear view of the cervix. Next, using a spatula, the doctor will collect samples of your cervical cells and send it for examination.


The significance of the Pap smear result

 

  • A negative test indicates a healthy cervix with no precancerous cells.
  • A positive result can, however, have many implications, such as there can be a condition known as dysplasia (minute alterations in the cervical cells). There may be some inflammation. However, the condition may be nothing to lose your sleep over. In many women, the condition heals by itself. A thorough investigation, (colposcopy followed by a biopsy) may be needed if the problem persists for long.

Further, there can be 

  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion: This, unfortunately, indicates the presence of precancerous cells.
  • Squamous cell cancer: As the name suggests, this more than often, confirms the presence of malignant or cancer cells.
  • Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance: Here the squamous cells appear very flat and thin, growing on the cervical surface. The condition may not necessarily indicate something serious. The person concerned may require further tests for a better interpretation of the condition.

A Pap smear is for your good. Go for a Pap smear and also encourage women in your circle to indulge in this healthy practice. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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