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 world wide used from 1950, to detect potential 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”.
Let’s find out more about the valuable Pap Test:
1. It is the only method of cancer prevention
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 altough 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 yet used to. 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, as long as the findings are normal. In case of abnormal findings, your cytologist will recommend how often you have to repeat the test.
4. It is reliable
Which way does the test succeed to diagnose cervical cancer early? This cancer has a detectable pre-symptomatic stage. It means that it does not grow directly into the normal epithelium. Between normal epithelium and invasive cancer intraepithelial lesions comes the endoepithilium alteration stage. 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 have to do more often the test)?
- have started having sex at an early age,
- present with a high-risk HPV infection and subsequent infections,
- suffer from 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 test and when can she stop?
The test must begin 8 to 12 months after the first sexual intercourse and from then on, a woman should have it every year of her sexually active life. After several years of menopause and being with the same partner the test can be done every two years. After the age of 75-80, the test is not necessary at all.
10. What is the “new” Pap Test?
The ThinPrep PapTest 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 gynecologists in their private office. The Thin Prep Pap test (which we also apply at Medimall) is accurate, integrated, widely used, and with a reliability of up to 90%.
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