10 Important facts to know about the Pap Test

10 Important facts to know about the Pap Test


Pap Test and cervical cancer

The Pap Test (or Pap smear) is a simple, painless, low-cost examination with high diagnostic accuracy, which aims to prevent cervical cancer. It is a laboratory investigation method of checking the cervix condition and is worldwide used from 1950, to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous cases in the female cervix. The test was discovered in 1923 and named after the famous Greek doctor, biologist, and researcher Georgios Papanikolaou. The originator of the Pap Test, a pioneer in cytopathology, remained in history as “the man who discovered the method which gave life to women all over the world”, as it is written in a commemorative plaque at the Cancer Research Institute “G. Papanikolaou”.

1. It is the only method to prevent cancer

The examination is performed by opening the vaginal canal with a speculum and then collecting cells at the external opening of the cervix in the transformation zone. The collected cells are examined under a microscope for abnormalities. The test aims to detect precancerous lesions and remains an effective, widely used method for the early detection of precancerous and cervical cancers. And although it is not designed for this purpose, it can also detect infections and disorders in the endocervix and the endometrium.

2. Is it painless?

The Pap test shouldn’t hurt. If you’re getting your first Pap, it may feel a little uncomfortable because it’s a new sensation that your body isn’t used to yet. Some women often say it feels like a small pinch, but everyone has a different sense of pain.

3. It can (and should) be done every year

The test should be repeated every year after the beginning of sexual life, as a prevention, if the findings are normal. In case of abnormal findings, your cytologist will recommend how often you must repeat the test.

4. It is reliable

How does the test succeed to diagnose cervical cancer on time? This cancer has a detectable pre-symptomatic stage. This means that it does not grow directly into the normal epithelium. Between normal epithelium and invasive cancer there is the stage of intraepithelial lesions. At this stage, there are no underlying symptoms or findings during the simple gynecological examination.

5. How to be prepared for the test

The test can be done any day of the cycle after the end of menstruation. There should be at least two days of abstinence from unprotected sexual intercourse, as well as no previous vaginal washing and usage of intravaginal suppositories or ointments.

6. Which women belong to the high-risk groups for cervical cancer (and must do more often the test)?

Those who:

  • have started having sex at an early age.
  • present a high-risk HPV infection and subsequent infections.
  • have sexually transmitted diseases.
  • are regular smokers.

7. What do the results of a Pap Test mean?

There are two possible results: normal or abnormal. In the first case, it means that no abnormal cells have been detected. Normal results are sometimes referred to as “negative”. So most probably you will not need to repeat the test soon. If the results are abnormal, it does not mean that you have cancer. It simply means that there are abnormal cells in your cervix, some of which may be precancerous. Depending on the test results, your doctor may recommend additional exams.

8. How accurate is it?

Although the Pap test may not always be accurate, it is one of the most effective cancer prevention tools a woman can utilize to stay healthy. In fact, the Pap Test reduces cervical cancer rates and mortality by 80%.

9. At what age should a woman start the Pap test and when can she stop?

The test should be held 8 to 12 months after the first sexual activity. For example, if a woman has her first intercourse at 16 when she turns 17 years old, she should start having the Pap test. A woman should do a test every year while she is sexually active. At the time a woman has been in menopause for several years, does not have various sexual partners, but has sexual intercourse, she can carry over the Pap test to the biennial. If she has not had intercourse and is several years into menopause, that is, she is 75-80 years old, then we could say that it is not necessary to have a Pap test.

10. What is the “new” Pap Test?

The ThinPrep Pap Test is the evolution of the classic Pap test and is a valid and technologically advanced method of early diagnosis and prevention of cervical cancer. It is more valid than the classic Pap Test because it can detect more lesions associated with cervical cancer or precancerous lesions. The ThinPrep Pap Test, since its introduction in 1996, has helped reduce cervical cancer by 30%. The exam can be done by specialized staff in a hospital or by gynaecologists in their private office. The Thin Prep Pap test (which we also apply at Medimall IVF Clinic) is accurate, integrated, widely used, and with a reliability of up to 90%.

Who was George Nikolaos Papanikolaou?

A pioneer in cytology and early detection of cancer, George Nikolaos Papanikolaou (born May 13, 1883, in Kymi, Evia and died February 19, 1962, in Miami) studied at the University of Athens, where he graduated in 1904. received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich in Germany.

In 1913 he immigrated to the United States to work in the Department of Pathology at New York Hospital and in the Department of Anatomy at Cornell University School of Medicine. At a conference in 1928, he made a presentation on the possibility of diagnosing cervical cancer through vaginal smear. However, his work was not fully appreciated because it was not based on a sufficient number of cases.

Together with Herbert Frederik Traut, they published in 1943 the book The Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear in 1943 and in 1944 the book The Diagnostic Value of Vaginal Smears in Carcinoma of the Uterus. The Pap test was immediately popular.

He is the inventor of the Pap test (Pap smear), which is used worldwide to detect and prevent cancer and other cellular disorders of the female reproductive system.






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