The Pap smear is a simple test to collect a small sample of cells from the cervix which helps to diagnose precancerous and cancerous conditions of the cervix. It also aids in diagnosing infections and inflammation of the lower reproductive tract.
Who should get the Pap test done?
As per the International recommendations, the age of screening is 21 years. In our country due to low resources for screening, national recommendations are to start screening at 30 years of age.
Women who are 30 years and above should undergo a Pap test once in every 3 years until the age of 65 years. If this test is combined with HPV test, then the duration of screening can be increased to 5 years.
Women who do not routinely require Pap test
When should the Pap test be done?
The Pap test, yields optimum results, if scheduled between 10 to 20 days of the menstrual cycle. The woman should not be menstruating at the time of test.
Preparation for Pap smear
Following should be avoided 48 hours before the test:
An instrument called a speculum is gently introduced into the vagina and the cervix is visualized. There may be some discomfort or cramping during the procedure, but it is not usually painful.
Results of Pap test
A Pap test result may be reported as normal or abnormal.
Normal Pap test
If the test report is normal, this means no abnormal or cancerous cells have been found in the smear taken.
Abnormal Pap tests
Abnormal Pap test results usually do not mean that the woman has cancer. Most often there is a small problem with the cervix. If results of the Pap test are unclear or show a mild abnormality in the cells of the cervix, your doctor may repeat the Pap test in 6 weeks, in 6 months or a year, or run more tests. Treating abnormal cells that don’t go away on their own can prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer. Treatment of this abnormality is often done in an out-patient department (OPD). If the test findings suggest more severe abnormality in the cells, it is confirmed by further procedures: