6 Facts About Pap Test, A Screening Tool Used To Detect Cervical Cancer

Date March 2, 2018

Cervical cancer accounts for 0.8% of all new cancer cases in the United States. According to the official statistics, this type of cancer was expected to affect 12,820 American women in 2017.

Pap test (also called Pap smear, Papanicolaou test, or cervical cytology) is a screening test designed to detect any abnormal cervical cells early to prevent precancerous lesions from developing into cancer or diagnose cervical cancer early when treatment can be more successful.

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Here are a few things women need to know about Pap test:

Pap tests are safe and usually painless.

Pap tests can be done during a routine pelvic exam or scheduled separately. During this procedure, your gynecologist collects a small sample of cells from your cervix using a special brush or spatula. You may experience a slight discomfort during the procedure or briefly afterward. The test is a safe and effective way to screen for cervical cancer, and minor discomfort is worth finding abnormal changes early.

There are a few things you need to do to prepare for a Pap test.

According to MedlinePlus, it’s recommended to have a Pap test at least five days after the last day of your period. In addition to that, there are a few things you shouldn’t do 2 to 3 days prior to the test. These include:

  • having sex;
  • using tampons;
  • douching;
  • using spermicidal agents.

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Women should start having regular Pap tests at the age of 21.

It’s recommended that women should have their first Pap test at the age of 21 and then have the test every 3 years up to age 29. Women aged 30 to 65 may have less frequent Pap tests (every 5 years, combined with HPV tests) if their previous test results were normal. Women older than 65 may not need any further Pap tests if their gynecologist doesn’t recommend it.

Women who have undergone total hysterectomy don’t need further Pap tests.

If a woman has had a surgery to remove the uterus and cervix (to treat cervical or uterine cancer or for other medical reasons) have no need for further Pap tests.

Women whose immune system is compromised may need more frequent Pap tests.

Women who have HIV/AIDS or other condition that weakens their immune system and women who take immunosuppressant drugs may need to have Pap tests more frequently than every 3 to 5 years (it depends on the doctor’s individual recommendations).

HPV tests can be done simultaneously with Pap tests.

HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can greatly increase a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. In fact, most cervical cancers are caused by the virus. An HPV test can be done using the same sample collected during a Pap test. Ask your gynecologist how often you need to have an HPV test.

Source: MedlinePlus, HealthLine, UpToDate, NCI SEER

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.