Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable gynecological cancers if diagnosed and treated in time. A pap smear test is the simplest and quickest test to screen a woman for cervical cancer or other abnormalities in her cervical region. The American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that every woman above the age of 21 should get a pap test done once in two years.
How Is A Pap Test Carried Out?
While a pap test is not usually painful, it may cause a little discomfort the first time. An instrument called a speculum is used to open the vagina and hold it in place so that the cervix (located at the top of the vagina) is clearly visible. A sterilized swab is then used to collect cells from in and around the vagina. These cells are then smeared on a glass slide and sent to the laboratory to look for any abnormal changes.
How Should I Prepare For A Pap Test?
The best time to have your pap test done is between two periods. Remember you cannot get this test done whilst having your menses. Keep these things in mind before going for a pap test.
- Do not douche (rinse your vagina with water or any other fluid)
- Do not use a tampon
- Avoid having sex for some time before the test
- Avoid using birth control foam, cream or jelly
- Avoid using any ointments or creams in and out of the vagina
What If I Have An Abnormal Pap Smear?
Abnormal pap tests cannot completely predict that you have cervical cancer. Depending on the type of abnormal cells found in your pap test, your doctor may ask you to repeat the test immediately, in six months or a year. Alternatively, your doctor may also suggest other tests or ask to do a colposcopy to take a better look at your cervix and extract a small sample for a biopsy. The results of the follow-up tests or a colposcopy will help the doctor to determine the best treatment.
A pap smear test only takes a few minutes and is crucial in diagnosing cervical cancer. It is best to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to determine how frequently you need to get it done.