A screening test that is done to monitor the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells and tissues in the cervix is known as a pap smear or a pap test. The human papillomavirus or the HPV can be responsible for the growth of precancerous cells in our cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. The treatment of these cells should be done in time because, if not treated, they can grow abnormally and multiply and cause cervical cancer. Pap smears are recommended for women between the age group of twenty to sixty-five and this is the first step towards preventing cervical cancer in them. The test is pretty quick, painless, and simple and you would not have much discomfort while the test is being done. You might notice some light spotting for 3 to 4 days after your pap test, but that is normal and not a cause for concern.
Pap tests are very helpful in detecting the earliest signs of cervical cancer, which is the fifth most common type of cancer worldwide. The chances of developing cervical cancer are at a peak in the 30s and then in the 50s. A female should undergo a regular pap smear, as suggested by the gynaecologist to ensure her well-being.
How often should a female get a Pap Smear test?
The chances of developing precancerous cells for cervical cancer are highest in the 30s and 50s. Therefore, it is suggested to women between 21 and 65 to regularly get pap smear tests. As far as the question about the frequency of the test is concerned, below is mentioned how often women of different age groups should undergo pap tests to keep a check on the health of their cervix.
- Women under the age of 21 require no pap smears and HPV testing.
- Women aged between 21 to 29 should get one pap smear every three years.
- Women aged between 30 to 65 should get a pap test and an HPV test every five years.
- Women of 65 and above do not require pap screening unless they have a history of abnormal pap tests.
Furthermore, it is important that you consult your gynecologist so that a testing schedule can be set up for you based on your conditions and health.
Benefits of Pap smear tests
There are numerous benefits of getting pap smear tests regularly as advised by experienced gynecologists. Some of these benefits are listed below.
- Pap tests tell about the health of your cervix and its overall state.
- They can help in detecting the presence of any cancerous or precancerous cells before they can develop into serious issues and concerns.
- The early detection of cancerous cells in the cervix can help the doctor treat it at the early stages which helps in a speedier recovery.
- An early detection of cancerous cells in the body helps to control and heal the ailment in a more effective way.
What does an abnormal pap smear test result mean?
If a pap test shows any abnormal cells in the cervix of the female, the test is rendered as abnormal. The doctor can recommend the repetition of the Pap test in four to five months depending on the type of cells found in the cervix. A colostomy can also be suggested so that a better look at the cervix can be taken. For further examination, tissue samples from the cervix are taken for biopsy to determine the kind of cells present.
How can you protect yourself against cervical cancer?
To protect yourself from cervical cancer, it is best to protect yourself from the human papillomavirus. Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection which can lead to cervical cancer. To avoid the probability of human papillomavirus in your body, it is important that you get a vaccine against it.
- Get the vaccine against HPV
The vaccine against HPV is recommended to people before they become sexually active. It is suggested by doctors to get this vaccine around the age of 11 and 12. However, if you are already sexually active and you have not had an HPV vaccine, you should talk to your healthcare provider or your doctor immediately.
- Undergo pap tests regularly
It is important to get a regular pap test because the vaccine does not guarantee protection against all types of HPV. To detect any early signs of cancer in the cervix. you should undergo smear pap smears regularly.
- Reduce your risk
Some ways for protecting yourself from cervical cancer are mentioned below.
Pap test- Pap smear test examines the cells in the woman’s cervix and sees if they are healthy. Women who have HIV, or a generally weak immune system, or a history of cancer in their family are at a greater risk. Such women should have pap smear tests more often.
Use condoms- To further reduce the risk of developing cancer, you should always use protection while having intercourse. Using condoms can reduce the risk of getting HPV because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. If you use a condom, it is likely that you don’t infect yourself or your partners. However, condoms do not guarantee protection from all kinds of HPV infections.
If you feel that you are at risk of a sexually transmitted disease, you should immediately talk to your doctor and get yourself tested before the virus develops itself.
- Don’t smoke
Many studies reveal that women who smoke cigarettes every day are at a greater risk of developing cervical cancer. This implies that if you quit smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes per day, there is a chance that you might be able to limit the possibility of cervical cancer.
What can you do to get an accurate Pap smear test result?
To make sure that you get an accurate pap smear test result, you should make an appointment at least four to five days after your period stops.
During the 48 hours before the test, you should not have sex. You must not douche, use tampons or birth control foams or gels, vaginal creams, lubricants, medicines, or any moisturizers down there. It is best to keep your vagina chemical-free during the two days before the test. Choose the best gynaecologist for your pap smear tests and undergo regular pap tests as suggested by the gynaecologist.