A Pap smear test is a simple procedure to check the condition of cells of the cervix (the lower narrower part of the uterus which opens into the vagina). This test detects any infection, presence of abnormal precancerous cells and helps in the diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Importance and need of a Pap test
It is a reliable test to detect abnormal cells which may turn cancerous. If and when the cancer is caught in the early stages, chances of recovery are at its peak.
A Pap test is a simple OPD procedure and can be conducted even in health camps. It can screen a large number of women in urban as well as rural areas. Early detection of cervical cancer can bring down the death rate and even the state of ill health in a large women population.
Who does and who doesn’t need a Pap test done?
- All women above the age of 21 every 2 years
- Above 30 years and if she has had 3 normal Pap test results in consecutive years, the woman can consult her doctor about having a Pap test every 3 years
- Woman with partial hysterectomy (removal of uterus), who has some part of the cervix still present require a Pap test
- In case of a total hysterectomy with cervix removed, which was done for a reason other than cancer do not require it
- Above 65 years, the woman can ask her physician if she still requires this test
*These guidelines are not absolute and are only recommendations. Consult your gynaecologist who can advise you correctly depending on your individual and family history.
How is the test done?
The test is usually conducted by a gynaecologist or a trained physician. The woman is asked to lie on the examination table with her legs spread apart. The doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina to widen the area and visualise the cervix. With a plastic spatula and brush, cervix is scrapped lightly to collect cervical cells. The procedure might be little discomforting but not painful.
Guidelines before doing a pap test
- It is advisable to avoid douching, using vaginal creams or having sexual intercourse 48 hours before the test is scheduled
- Ideal time of the month to get it done is a week after the menstrual period is over