A PAP test or a PAP smear as it is popularly called is important for testing women for cervical cancer. The test confirms the presence of cancerous cells in the cervix. The cervix in simple terms is also known as the opening of the uterus. The Pap test is actually a routine procedure which involves scraping cells from the cervix and examining them for abnormality.
Who should conduct a test?
The Pap test should be conducted by all women above the age of 21. Ideally, the test should be conducted every three years or so. Women who did not have any abnormal PAP tests and are above the age of 30 can go for the test every five years.
Pregnant women can also conduct their PAP smear tests if the same is scheduled while you are expecting. Ideally, this test can be conducted safely in your pregnancy’s first 24 weeks. It is likely to become as painful as the pregnancy progresses. Therefore, it is best to wait until 12 weeks after the birth of the baby for the tests to resume. This wait increases the accuracy of the test.
Method of PAP test
During the test, you should keep the body as relaxed as possible. The gynecologist will ask you to lie down on the examination table and place your legs on the stirrup. To keep the vaginal walls open, the doctor will insert a device called the speculum. Once this is done, the doctor will use a spatula to scrape the walls of the cervix and collect some cells as a sample. This is then sent to the lab for tests. The results are available within two weeks or so. Alternatively, the doctor can also use a cotton swab for collecting the vaginal and cervical secretions in case the doctor suspects STDs.
In case the tests reveal abnormal pap when pregnant then further treatment has to wait until the birth of the baby.
Pap smear results
This test can have only two results which are positive and negative. A normal result means that no threatening or abnormal cells have been detected in the test. In such a case you will need to take the test again after three or even five years.
In case the results are not as expected it does not signify that you have cancer. It often happens that abnormal pap pregnant results are seen. Possessing abnormal cells means that they might be precancerous as well. The abnormality in cells can be of different types like mild, atypia, moderate, severe dysplasia and carcinoma in situ. The mild kind of abnormalities has been observed more rather than actual abnormalities. Your doctor might ask you to take more PAP tests or even colposcopy which offers a closer examination of the cervical tissue. The colposcopy test involves looking at the cervical and vaginal tissues closely with the help of light. If the doctor feels then he may recommend a biopsy of the tissues.
The results of the PAP tests are quite dependable. These tests are highly useful in determining cervical cancer in women. For proper care of a woman’s health, this test can be considered mandatory.