What is Pap Smear Test?

Adenocarcinoma in Situ of the Cervix by euthman, on Flickr
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Are you one of the many women who still do not know the Pap smear meaning? Well, the answer is simple. A Pap smear test is a medical process in which cells from a woman’s cervix are taken as samples and smeared on a slide designed for microscopes. Once the cells are put under the microscope, they are examined to find out if there are any changes that are malignant or pre-malignant.

Pap smears are a painless procedure and they are simple and done very quickly. It is important to note that the results of this procedure are not always conclusive or accurate. In fact, there have been incidences in which a small group of women who went for regular Pap tests developed cervical cancer. This test is not used to detect other cancers that affect the vagina, ovaries or uterus. These cancers are usually detected during the pelvic exam when the Pap smears are conducted.

Can all women get a Pap smear test?

Almost all women can get a Pap smear of cervix done. Pregnant women can safely take the test. The only exception is women who have had a hysterectomy and their cervix removed. Women who have undergone subtotal hysterectomy (without the removal of the cervix) can go ahead with the screening the same way that other women do without any problems.

How often should women get Pap smears?

No woman is the same, so depending on one’s history of health and age, a doctor will be the best person to inform you on how often you can get the test done. However, most women can get a Pap test by following the guidelines mentioned below:

  • For women between 21 and 29 years of age, a Pap test can be taken every three years.
  • For women between 30 and 64 years, a Pap test and a human papillomavirus test, also known as HPV, should be taken every five years.
  • For women over 65, they can consult their doctor about whether they can stop taking Pap smears.

There are women who are required to get the test more often than others. Women who have the following health issues should consult their doctors about taking the test more frequently:

  • Weak immune system caused by chemotherapy, organ transplant or use of steroids
  • History of Pap results that were abnormal or cervical cancer
  • HIV positive
  • If their mothers had exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) during their pregnancy
  • History of cervical erosion

How to prepare for a Pap test

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There are certain things that can cause the result of Pap tests to be inaccurate. To make sure that you are well-prepared for the test, 2 days prior to the test, you should:

  • Avoid using tampons
  • Avoid vaginal medicines, creams and suppositories
  • Avoid using vaginal deodorant powders and sprays
  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid sexual intercourse

The preparation for Pap smear of cervix is simple and does not require anything too complex on your part.

What are the treatments available for an abnormal Pap result?

If the result of your Pap test is abnormal, you do not need to worry. There are several treatments that are available and they all have a cure rate of more than 90 per cent. That is terrific news, so you do not have to worry! The treatments you will find include the following:

  • Colposcopy
  • Cryocauterization
  • Conization
  • Laser therapy
  • Large-loop excision of the transformation zone

As a woman, it is important to have a regular Pap smear of cervix done. It will help in early detection of cervical cancer and is a safety precaution that every woman should take seriously.