The big “C” we are all afraid of. Cancer!
As women a lot of the times we are not just worried about ourselves but we also know what it will do to our families. And that’s a good enough reason to be aware and to “screen” for cancer.
Screening basically means doing some tests to detect a problem even before it has actually become one.
And luckily for us, one of our biggest worries, the cervical cancer is easy to screen for!
Thats where the Pap smear comes in. Pap is short for Papinacolou, the stain used in this test.
So what is the test all about? Well, the basic principle of the test is to obtain some cells ( the tiniest units that make up every part of our body) from the cervix or the mouth of the womb, and to examine them, after applying some special stains, in a laboratory. This will help pick up any abnormal looking cells which may then tell us if there is any changes that may indicate a cancer is developing or likely to develop in the future.
When should you have it? Different countries have different guidelines. The UK guidelines suggest starting your pap smears at 25 years of age or 3 years after your first sexual activity, whichever happened earlier. The Health authority at Abu Dhabi suggests you start at 25 years of age if you are sexually active. You should then repeat it every 3 years if they are normal. Most organisations suggest regular screening till you are 64 years of age. After you turn 50 you may increase the interval to 5 years between your pap smears.
With respect to your period it is best to go 1-2 days after your period has ended so as to get only cells from your cervix and not blood mixed with them.
How is the test done? If you have ever had what we doctors call a speculum examination then that’s exactly what is done for a pap smear. Your doctor would ask you to pass urine to empty your bladder and lie down on a couch after undressing from waist down. She will then insert a small plastic or metal tube like thing from down below and use a light from the foot end to look at your cervix (mouth of the womb). She will then use a brush to gently scrape some cells off the cervix.
Trust me you will not even feel that! And that’s it! It’s over!!
You will then get your report from your doctor in a week or so.
What if you get an abnormal result? Pap smear usually picks up problems way, and i mean years, before cancer actually develops. So an abnormal result may not actually mean much. However you may be asked to return for further tests like HPV test ( Human Papilloma Virus ) or Colposcopy. That’s for another blog!
If you have any other queries about a pap smear or need an opinion on you pap smear result and what you should do about it you could leave a comment or email me at drnehagami(at)gmail.com and ill try and get back to you ASAP.
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