Pap Smear or Cervical Smear
Pap smear – also known as a Pap test – is a procedure in which cells are collected from the cervix – an opening at the top of the vagina, and are examined under a microscope to diagnose cervical cancer. Pap smear detects precancerous and cancerous cells of the cervix.
Why is the test ordered?
Gynaecologists recommend Pap smear as a screening test to screen for cervical cancer. In the initial stages, cervical cancer doesn’t show any symptoms; therefore, cervical cancer screening tests are recommended to detect such cancers at an early stage for a potential cure.
When is the test ordered?
Pap smear or cervical cancer screening should begin at age 21 and it should be repeated after every 3 years. For women above the age 30, if the Pap smear is done in conjunction with Human Papilloma virus (HPV), then it should be done every 5 years.
How is the sample collected?
The woman being tested is asked to lie down on her back on a table with her feet in stirrups. A gynaecologist opens the vagina, gently inserts an instrument called speculum and opens the vagina slightly. By slightly opening the vagina, the doctor can see cervix quite clearly. Next, cells from the cervix are collected using a swab.
How to prepare for the test?
Some medicines like birth control pills may affect the test. It is therefore important to inform the doctor about all the medicines one is taking before taking the test. Inform the doctor in case you are pregnant. Also, avoid having intercourse for up to 24 hours before the test, do not use tampons and don’t douche.