Pap smear test
A Pap smear test is a diagnostic procedure that every sexually active woman should undergo yearly. It is usually done during pelvic exam and consists of collecting cells from cervical surface and cervical canal for a cytological analysis. This test plays a great role for early detection of cervical cancer and helps to save millions of lives yearly.
Due to numerous factors abnormal changes may occur on the cervix. These changes don’t cause any specific symptoms. In some cases cervical abnormalities lead to precancerous or cancerous conditions. A Pap smear test helps to reveal even minor changes in the cervical cells. If abnormal cells are detected at an early stage, it is more likely that cervical cancer can be prevented.
A Pap smear test is a simple procedure which may be performed by a doctor or a nurse. Some women feel a little discomfort, but usually there is no pain. The doctor uses a special instrument called speculum to gently open the vagina and then a sample of cells is taken from the cervix. After that, the obtained material is placed on the glass slide and sent to a laboratory. A cytologist will observe the cells under microscope. Sometimes, a test for human papilloma virus is performed at the same time.
If the cytologist reveals the presence of abnormal cells in the Pap smear test, the doctor will contact the woman and explain her test's results. If abnormal cells were detected, it is usually necessary to do additional tests in order to determine the cause of cervical abnormalities.
The Pap smear test doesn't always detect cervical abnormalities and its results may be false negative. To ensure a more reliable result of cytological exam, woman should avoid sexual contacts, vaginal douche, tampons or vaginal contraceptives 48 hours before the Pap smear test. Moreover, it is not recommended to have a Pap smear test during the period.
Most patients who develop cervical cancer have not undergone Pap smear test in over 5 years. Women should begin to have regular Pap smear test after they start having sex or from the age of 18. It allows a doctor to diagnose many gynecological conditions: viral and bacterial infections, precancerous and cancerous diseases and many others. Based on the Pap smear test results the doctor chooses an appropriate management for patients.