Screening tests are an essential part of health care. At Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, we strongly urge our patients to regularly go in for health checkups, to ensure that the signs of cancer can be detected in its earliest stages and make sure that treatment can begin long before the spread of cancer and onset of symptoms. With instances of patients suffering from cancer affecting the breast, ovarian and uterine on the rise, the importance of procedures like a PAP test become immediately apparent.
What Exactly is a PAP Smear Test?
A PAP test is a simple screening tool that is used to locate the abnormal cells on the cervix. A PAP smear test can help in identifying the abnormalities before the development of the cancer cells. It is a great tool for cervical cancer screening.
Screening with a Pap smear must start every year beginning three years after the first sexual encounter or by age 21 whichever is sooner. After three normal Pap tests, you can lengthen the interval to every three years. However, it must be annually for those at high risk such as those with high-risk sexual lifestyle/partner with high-risk sex lifestyle, those with HPV infection, those on oral contraception for over five years, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, those who smoke. Cervical cancer is unlikely to develop in women over 64 and Pap screening can stop at this age if you have had normal Pap tests in the previous ten years and 3 or more documented standard Pap tests. If you have not been sexually active with a man, your chances of developing cervical cancer are very low, and you may, therefore, choose not to have a screening test.
It’s important to remember that, although a cervical smear is the best way to check the health of your cervix, it isn’t an absolute test.
Sometimes, screening can show possible signs of cervical cancer when in fact there is no problem. Up to one in 10 cervical smear tests have to be re-taken because of a problem with the test. This can happen if you have an infection, if not enough cells were collected during the smear test or if the cells were hidden by blood or mucus.
The best time to be screened is usually 14 days after your last period. You can’t be screened during your period. If you’re pregnant – it’s usual to wait until three months after you have had your baby.
If minor cell changes were found on your test, you would need to have a repeat screening test – usually in six months. If the repeat screening test is normal, you will be asked to have one more test in the next six to 12 months. If this is normal, you will return to routine testing. If the repeat test still shows the borderline changes, you may be asked to have a colposcopy.
How is the Test Conducted?
A PAP smear procedure is simple and is a routine gynaecological exam. The test or procedure is painless and quick. In this procedure, the cell samples are obtained from the cervix. The cervical cells are then collected using a broom or spatula and a brush. Once the PAP smear for cervical cancer is completed, the cells are sent to a laboratory. To get the best results, our in-house laboratory experts at Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital examine the cells minutely under the microscope.
What Exactly is Colposcopy?
Colposcopy procedure is a simple procedure, in which, the doctor uses a magnifying device to have a look at your vulva, vagina, and cervix. This helps in identifying the abnormal cells easily. If a problem is observed during a colposcopy, a biopsy may be taken. One of the benefits is that it helps in examining the external genital area i.e. the vulva, cervix, and the vagina.
The procedure for the test is the same as a PAP test. It is vital to know that a colposcopy procedure is not carried out while you are menstruating. Also, you will be asked by the colposcopy clinic to avoid intercourse, any vaginal medication, tampons or douches 24 hours before the test.