Doctors use the Pap Smear test to detect cervical cancer. With this test they can determine the presence of abnormalities in the cervical cells, that are currently cancerous or become so in the future. Since this test assists in early diagnosis, it’s a very important medical tool.
The Pap Smear test is conducted to detect cervical cancer. In this test, the doctor scrapes out a few cells from the cervix and sends it for analysis. The aim is to look for any changes or abnormalities in the cells of the cervix, which will reveal signs of cancerous cell growth.
Such a test should be undertaken once a girl has attained 21 years of age or is sexually active, whichever is earlier. It is important to conduct this test every two or three years, because it can help diagnose cervical cancer in its initial stages and can be treated effectively. 90% of cervical cancer cases can be prevented if diagnosed at the initial stages.
Pap Smear Procedure
A woman who is going in for this test should avoid sex, douching, or application of vaginal creams for 48 hours before the test is carried out. Once you go in for the test, the obstetrician will insert an instrument called speculum into your vagina. This instrument helps widen the vagina so that the cervix is visible. The doctor will clean the cervix with a cotton swab, after which he will scrape out a few cells using a spatula or brush. The cells removed are placed on a glass slide and sent to the laboratory to be tested.
Although the Pap Smear exam takes only a few minutes, it takes several weeks before the test results are received. If the test report says that it is normal, it means that the cervix is absolutely fine, with no signs of cancer. But if the results say it is an abnormal one, then it means the cells of the cervix have experienced unusual changes. In such cases, the procedure is conducted again to confirm the result.
Since the result of one test isn’t enough to confirm the presence of cancer, other complementary tests such as colonoscopy, etc., may also be carried out. Cells undergo several changes over the years before they change to cancer, and by detecting the abnormality in the initial stages, one can prevent the onset of cancer. A Pap Smear is the best tool for early detection of growth of cervical cells, which is why it is so important to have this test done on a regular basis.
If cancer has been detected laser surgery, cryosurgery, or LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) may be recommended. These procedures treat and destroy the cancerous cells. Laser surgery is a procedure in which the deleterious cancerous cells are burned or vaporized. Cryosurgery, on the other hand, is a procedure in which the cells are frozen off. Moreover, LEEP is a procedure in which these cells are discarded from the cervix using a wire loop. Clearing the cervix of cancerous cells will take time, which is why these treatment procedures need to be carried out several times.
A Pap Smear test must be carried out regularly. Early detection can help detect and treat cervical cancer before it is too late. Having said this, it is important to remember that just because the test report indicated an abnormality, it doesn’t necessarily mean cancer. So it’s important to clear your doubts with your obstetrician and not panic.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.