What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear test checks for changes in the cells of the female cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina). The Pap smear test can tell if an individual has an infection, or has abnormal unhealthy or cancerous cells. A Pap smear sample is a simple, quick test collected in a painless manner, by a gynecologist during a visit to his/her clinic. The smear is then sent to the laboratory to be screened by a cytologist.
Why do I need a Pap smear test?
A Pap smear test can save your life. It can detect cervical cancer in is early stages before it becomes invasive. It can make treatment easier and cure more probable. Pap smears can also detect infected, inflamed, and abnormal cells that can change into cancerous cells. A Pap smear may also be used for the purpose of hormonal evaluations.
Who should have a Pap smear?
Generally, Pap screening is recommended for all women who are of child bearing age as well as those who are post-menopausal. For women who have had their uterus removed, Pap screening should not be discontinued. Pap smear is also recommended in the follow up of women who have undergone cervical cancer treatment. In all cases, the frequency of testing depends on your doctor’s recommendation.
What factors increase the risk of having an abnormal Pap smear?
Any woman can get cancer of the cervix. But, the chances of getting cancer of the cervix increase when a woman:
- Has or had sexually transmitted diseases
- Has been / is smoker
- Has or had genital warts (HPV)
- Had her first child before age 20
When is the best time to have a Pap smear?
You should not have a Pap smear when you have your period. The best time to have one is mid cycle (between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your last period).