A pap smear is a diagnostic procedure, prescribed for the detection of cervical cancer. This is performed by collecting a small sample of cells from the cervix – which is the lower part of the uterus and acts as the cavity wherein the embryo grows into a fully-grown baby. A pap smear is a definitive step to detect cervical cancer and allows for effective treatment of the disease.
A Pap smear is also helpful in detecting possible changes to the lining of the cervix – indicating possible cancers of the future, and/or cervical dysplasia. The detection of such abnormal cells is an effective defence against cervical cancer.
Preparing for a Pap Smear
- Avoid sexual intercourse
- Avoid foams, jellies
- Avoid scheduling during periods
Risks of a Pap Smear
- Collection of inadequate cells
- Fewer abnormal cells
- Inflammatory cells obscuring abnormal ones
In most cases, a pelvic exam is also performed alongside a pap smear and for women older than 30 an HPV test may also be added to the mix. Typically, one can start getting a pap smear after the age of 21 and it can be repeated every three years until the age of 30. After 30, the time-gap can be increased to every 5 years. However, patients with certain pre-existing conditions or risks can opt for a more frequent pap smear schedule to mitigate the risks.
A regular Pap Smear is advised, if you have any of the following
- HIV Infection
- Cervical cancer
- Precancerous cell detection
- Weak immune system
- Smoking habit