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Pap Smear – When Is It Required?

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By Dr. Kavita Mandal, Gynaecology

Today, the diagnosis of cancer is on the rise. HPV infection, unprotected sex, oral contraceptives, and multiple sexual partners are the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. Pap smear is a clinical test that checks if there is the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix (entrance to the uterus).

What is a Pap smear?

It is a kind of pelvic examination. During this test, the doctor scrapes away cells from the cervix with a swab. The sample is then analyzed in a laboratory in accordance with the Bethesda System. In most cases, a Pap smear successfully identifies abnormalities at a cellular level before they become malignant. This is the stage when cancer is treatable. The results are available within ten days.

Who should opt for a Pap smear?

Women between the ages 21-65 should ideally get a Pap smear screening. Pregnant women can get a Pap smear as well, as the test does not harm the fetus in any way. You should get a pap smear test once every three years. Once you reach the age of thirty, you can opt for a combined Pap smear and HPV screening once every five years.

You should get a Pap smear if you show any of these symptoms:

• Pelvic Pain

• Bleeding when you are not menstruating

• Bleeding post menopause

• Abnormal vaginal discharge

• Pain during sexual activities

These are the symptoms of cervical cancer. Pap smear is a risk-free procedure. It can cause mild discomfort but it dissipates in a few days. However, women who have undergone hysterectomy where the cervix has been removed, should not opt for a Pap smear.

What is Colposcopy?

If your Pap smear results come back as abnormal, it means that the test has recognized the change in the cells of your cervix. This indicates whether the abnormalities are mild, moderate or grave or if your cervix shows signs of cancerous growth. Colposcopy is a follow-up test. Your OB/GYN will prescribe this test to determine the nature of the abnormality spotted by the Pap smear. It is vital that you get this test because, in the precancerous stage, non-invasive methods are used to deal with the condition. It offers a magnified view of the cervix, the vulvar regions and the tissues of the vagina.

When vinegar solution is applied to your cervix, the abnormal cells change colour. This tells the doctor whether the cells are cancerous or not. After the colposcopy, the doctor determines whether you require a cervical biopsy. Immediately after the colposcopy, the doctor will advise you to refrain from sexual intercourse for at least a week. It poses no constraints when it comes to showering, oral contraceptive routine, etc.

Your health is instrumental to your happiness. Cancer is one of the top killers in the world. The only way to beat cancer is to adopt preventive measures. That is why you should consider getting a regular Pap smear.

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