Pap Test: When & How to Perform this Examination?
If you ever want to have a baby, the Pap test is one of the steps you need to take in order to avoid any possible issues with your future pregnancy.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is the Pap Test?
- 2 When Do We Need to Perform the Papanicolaou Test?
- 3 How Often Should this Test Be Performed?
- 4 How to Prepare for this Test?
- 5 How Is the Pap Smear Performed?
- 6 How Will You Feel After the Cervical Screening Test?
- 7 Interpreting the Results
- 8 Possible Causes for Positive Results
- 9 What to Do in Case of Positive Results?
- 10 Are Positive Results a Sign of STD? Will the Partner Require Examination & Treatment?
What Is the Pap Test?
The Pap test, or Papanicolaou test or Pap smear, is a simple, cheap and accurate gynecological analysis, which allows the estimation of the cervical tissue condition.
The main purpose of this test is to detect atypical cells (abnormal) which in the future may give birth to malignancies. This Pap smear is a painless and harmless procedure.
When Do We Need to Perform the Papanicolaou Test?
Also known as a cervical cancer screening method, this procedure is the simplest and most accessible method of diagnosing of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions (cervical dysplasia).
If this investigation was recommended to you, you shouldn`t panic! This doesn`t mean to have cancer or you are suspected of cancer. On the contrary, the Pap smear performed regularly reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Due to the fact that the main cause of cervical cancer is the infection with HPV, a regular performing of this test is absolutely necessary for all women who experience the symptoms of this infection.
HPV infection is the most common STD and can be found in the genital tract of 20 – 40% of adults.
Since in most cases, there isn`t any symptom at a person infected with HPV, it`s recommended a regular and preventive performing of this test for all women with ages between 21 and 65 years old.
This examination helps in identifying the first changes in the cervix, which can lead to cancer in the following years. For this reason, a periodic test allows the identification in good time of these changes and implementation of appropriate treatment, which would eliminate the risk of cervical cancer in the future.
Due to a massive demand of this test from women of all ages in the recent years, it has been achieved a significant reduction in cases of illness or death from cervical cancer.
How Often Should this Test Be Performed?
The Papanicolaou test is recommended:
- To all women – once every 3 years. The first analysis should be performed when you started your sexual life or at 21 years old. The examinations should be repeated until the age of 65 years old.
- Approximately once a year or even more often if the previous test revealed changes in the cervix.
- After 65 years old, the frequency of performing this test is determined individually, depending on the results of previous tests up to this age.
This test is also necessary in the case of women who had their uterus removed, but they still their cervix.
How to Prepare for this Test?
Before performing this test:
- Stop any sexual intercourse for 1 – 2 days before the investigation.
- Stop vaginal washes and using any products of personal hygiene.
- Stop using any drugs under the form of vaginal suppositories, tablets or sprays, if their use wasn`t previously discussed with the doctor before the test.
Generally, the test is performed during the first days after menstruation.
How Is the Pap Smear Performed?
The first phase of the investigation is the general gynecological exam in which the doctor inserts a special instrument of suitable size and made of metal or plastic into the vagina (valves, speculum), which will be used to extend the walls of the vagina. The introduction of the mirror into the vagina may create unpleasant sensations of foreign bodies, but you should try not to oppose and rather breathe deeply and regularly – this will make things easier for the doctor and will make the procedure less unpleasant.
After the examination of the vaginal walls and cervix, the doctor will start taking the necessary samples. To obtain a scraping a cell scraping of the cervix, he`ll use a special tampon, a probe or brush. This process may create unpleasant sensations and can be a bit painful, but this won`t take very long.
The obtained samples are then sent to the lab for analysis, and the results will generally be ready in 1 – 2 weeks.
Along with these samples, the doctor may also collect mucus or secretions for a bacteriological test, which will help in establishing the microflora composition and the degree of “purity” of the vagina.
Often with the process of scraping, the doctor also performs colposcopy and biopsy, which offer more precise info on the state of the cervix.
How Will You Feel After the Cervical Screening Test?
Within 3 – 5 days after collecting the samples for the test, you may experience some brownish-greenish vaginal discharges; this is something pretty normal and doesn`t need any treatment.
During this period, it`s recommended for you to use hygienic absorbents.
For 7 – 10 days after this examination, it`s recommended to stop any sexual intercourses, vaginal washes or using any vaginal tampons.
Talk to your doctor right away if after this test you experience any abundant bleeding, fever, chills or severe abdominal pains.
Interpreting the Results
The results of this test can be:
- Normal (good, negative) – which will indicate the absence of any significant changes in the cervix.
- Pathological (bad, positive, atypical, dysplasia) – which will indicate the detection of changes that in the future may be a cause of developing cancer.
There are many reasons which may affect the tissues of the cervix and may produce any changes in the cells.
The most frequent cause is HPV infection as well as other STDs (chlamydia, candidiasis, ureaplasma, bacterial vaginosis, mycoplasma, etc.).
What to Do in Case of Positive Results?
Getting a “bad” result it doesn`t mean yet that you have cancer and that is nothing you can do about it. Cervical cancer is relatively rare, while these bad results on the cervical cancer screening are obtained on 1 out of 20 women.
Generally, the doctor will inform you about the plan of additional investigations and necessary treatment when will give you the results. The treatment aims the removal of the causes which led to the appearance of cervical tissues and may include: treatment for STDs, cervical erosion cauterization, cauterization involving dysplasia, etc.
Are Positive Results a Sign of STD? Will the Partner Require Examination & Treatment?
The Pap test cannot detect genital infections. Still, if during the examination the doctor suspects you may suffer from an infection, he`ll recommend additional tests which will help in detecting the infection.
In case that the tests will detect traces of infection, the doctor may recommend you to come at the next visit with your partner to carry out possible examinations and treatment.