A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. It tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on your cervix. The cervix is the opening of the uterus.
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test or cervical smear, tests for abnormal cells in your cervix. Pap smears can also identify vaginal infections and inflammation. They’re mainly used to screen for cervical cancer. When cervical cancer is found early, there’s a far greater likelihood that it can be cured. Experts have established a schedule for when and how often you should have a Pap smear.
During the routine procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped away and examined for abnormal growth. The procedure is done at your doctor’s office. It may be mildly uncomfortable, but doesn’t usually cause any long-term pain.
Getting results that your Pap smear is abnormal doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Instead, it means that some cells are different from other cells.
When changes occur in the structure of cells of your cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to your vagina, they’re considered precancerous.
HPV infection is very common.
It’s estimated that the likelihood of getting HPV at some point in life, if you have at least one sex partner, is more than 84 percent for women and 91 percent for menTrusted Source. You can be infected if you’ve only had one sex partner. You can have the infection for years without knowing it.
How to Identify?
The following recommendations for women who have no known risks.
|Age||Pap smear frequency|
|< 21 years old,||not needed|
|21-29||every 3 years|
|30-65||every 3 years; or an HPV test every 5 years, or a Pap test and HPV test together (called co-testing) every 5 years
When you have a Pap smear, you’ll be asked to lie back on the examination table with your knees up. You’ll place your feet in stirrups located on each side of the table. You’ll need to scoot your bottom to the end of the table. Your doctor will place a metal or plastic speculum in your vagina to hold it open. They’ll then use a swab to lightly scrape off some of the cells and mucus on your cervix. Most women don’t experience pain during the test, but you may feel a slight pinching or pressure. Your doctor will send your samples to a lab for evaluation under a microscope. Your doctor may also order a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. HPV tests are used for women ages 21 and older who’ve had abnormal Pap smear results and for women ages 30 and older.
What to Do?
The Pap smear is intended as a screening test that alerts the need for further examination. It’s considered a reliable test. Most Pap smear test results come back as normal. This means you’ve been given an all-clear and should continue to follow the recommended schedule for future tests. You may hear these results referred to as a “negative” test. That means that you’ve tested negative for abnormalities.