Cervical cancer is a largely preventable form of cancer that is responsible for 1/3rd of all global deaths. Largely caused by the Human Papillomavirus(HPV), this sexually transmitted virus affects a large swathe of India’s middle-aged women.
Pap smears are efficient tests that can help test for cervical cancer as well as in the detection of any early signs of any cancer-related abnormalities in your cervix. Here are a few things you need to know about this life-saving screening test.
It is important to understand that Pap smear tests is neither for detecting sexually transmitted diseases(STDs) or cancers of the cervix. Pap smear tests perform the vital function of helping physicians identify any abnormal cell growth (caused by HPV) that are in turn good indicators of any gestating cancers.
You should start getting routine Pap smear tests within three years of becoming sexually active or by the time you turn 21 ( whichever comes first). Subsequently, make it a point to continue getting a Pap smear test every 3 years till you turn 65.
Your Pap smear test can return false positives if there are any foreign substances present in your vaginal tract during the test. It is therefore recommended to avoid having any sexual intercourse for a few days ( 2-3 days) prior to your Pap smear test. It is also recommended to get your test done before or after your periods to get the best results.
A Pap smear test is a painless procedure that is conducted by means of a simple cervical swab. Your physician will collect cell samples from your vagina by means of a cotton swab. This sample will then be analysed in a lab for any abnormal cell growth anomalies. The entire procedure should take about 10-15 minutes from start to finish.
An abnormal Pap smear signifies the growth of aberrant cells in your cervical tract. Your doctor might require further tests like a colposcopy to obtain more tissue samples to confirm the exact nature of this cellular anomaly and prescribe the most appropriate treatment path
Pap score tests results are binary in nature. This means that they can return with either positive or negative values. A negative score signifies an absence of any cellular abnormalities while a positive score indicates the presence of abnormal cell growths (that could potentially be early stage cancer growths).
It is important to note that a positive Pap smear score isn't always a sure sign of a cancerous growth.Your test can return positive scores if you have Dysplasia ( minor changes in your cellular structure) or even a mild inflammation.