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Pap Test

What is a cervical smear test (Pap test)?
Why do I need a cervical smear test?
Do all women need Pap tests?
My friend had a hysterectomy - does she still need a Pap test?
How often do I need to get a cervical smear test?
Is there anything special I need to do before going for a cervical smear test?
How is a cervical smear test done?
What happens after the cervical smear test is done?
What do abnormal smear test results mean?
What will happen if my cervical smear test finds something that is not normal?
Is cervical smear test a 100% test? Do sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) cause cancer of the cervix?
What increases a woman's risk for cancer of the cervix?

 

What is a cervical smear test (Pap test)? >

The cervical smear test (also called a Pap smear) checks for changes in the cells of your cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens into the vagina (birth canal). The smear test can tell if you have an infection, abnormal (unhealthy) cells, or cancer.

Why do I need a cervical smear test? >

A cervical smear test can save your life. It can find pre cancerous cells of the cervix - a common cancer in women - before it moves to other parts of your body (becomes invasive). If caught early, treatment for cancer of the cervix can be easier and the chances of curing it are far greater. The main benefit from cervical smear test is screening for precancerous cells before it change to full cancer. The smear test can also pick up infections and inflammation.

Do all women need cervical smear test? >

It is important for all women to make cervical smear tests, along with pelvic exams, a part of their routine health care. You need to have a cervical smear test if you are over 25 years old. If you are under 25 years old and are or have been sexually active, you can also ask for one. Recently the department of health recommendation that only women 25 years old and over they require to have a smear test. The reason for changing the ages that most of the data from previous studies have shown the incidence of cervical cancer is very low below the age of 25. The frequency of doing the smear should be no more than every 3 years until the age of 49. After 49 it would be every five years until the age of 65.

Women who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, or on regular intake of immunosuppressant drugs are more at risk for developing cancer of the cervix and other cervical diseases. The BSCCP recommends that HIV positive women have an initial cervical smear test, and then a cervical smear should be done on a yearly bases.

If I had a hysterectomy – do I still need a Pap test? >

Women who have had a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) should talk with their health care provider about whether they need to continue having routine vault smear tests or not. If the hysterectomy was done because a woman had cancer or a precancerous condition, the end of the vagina still needs to be tested for abnormal changes. Women who have had both their uterus and cervix removed for no cancerous condition may not need routine smear tests. Women who have had only the uterus removed (and still have their cervix) need regular cervical smear tests.

How often do I need to get a cervical smear test? >

According to the department of health women should have a regular smear test starting from the age of 25 then every three years until the age of 49. After the age of 50, every 5 years until the age of 65. Talk with your health care provider about what is best for you.

Is there anything special I need to do before going for a cervical smear test? >

For two days before the test, you should not douche or use vaginal creams, suppositories, foams or vaginal medications (like for a yeast infection). And, do not have sexual intercourse within 24 hours of your test. All of these can cause inaccurate test results by washing away or hiding abnormal cells. You should not have a smear test when you have your period.

How is a Smear test done? >

Your health care provider can do a cervical smear test during a pelvic exam. It is a quick test that takes only a few minutes. You will be asked to lie down on an exam table and put your feet together, letting your knees fall to the side. A sheet will cover your legs and stomach. The health care provider will put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, opening it to see the cervix and to do the cervical smear test. She or he will use a special stick, brush or swab to take a few cells from inside and around the cervix. The cells are placed on a small glass slide, or in a jar, and then checked by a lab to make sure they are healthy. While painless for most women, a cervical smear test can cause discomfort for some women.

What happens after the cervical smear test is done? >

If the cells are okay, no treatment is needed. If an infection is present, treatment is prescribed. If the cells look abnormal, or not healthy, more tests may be needed. A cervical smear test is not 100% right all the time, so it is always important to talk to your doctor about your results.

What do abnormal cervical smear test results mean? >

Your doctors may tell you that your cervical smear test result was "abnormal." Cells from the cervix can sometimes look abnormal but this does not mean you have cancer. Remember, abnormal conditions do not always turn into cancer. If you have abnormal results, be sure to talk with your health care provider to find out what they mean and what you need to do (if anything) about it.

What will happen if my cervical smear test finds something abnormal? >

If the cervical smear test shows something confusing or a minor change in the cells of the cervix (inadequate or borderline), the test may be done again between 3 and 6 months. If the test shows a major change in the cells of the cervix called dyskarioses, your doctor will refer you to a gynaecologist with special interest in colposcopy to perform a colposcopic examination . This is a procedure done in an office or clinic with an instrument (called a colposcope) that acts like a microscope, allowing the Gynaecologist to closely see the cervix. Your Gynaecologist may also take a small amount of tissue from the cervix (called a biopsy) to examine for any abnormal cells, which can be a sign of pre cancer. . Remember, abnormal conditions do not always turn into cancer unless left untreated.

Is cervical smear test a 100% test? >

No. There is as a false negative cervical smear test result? Cervical smear tests are not always 100 percent accurate. False positive and false negative results can happen. This can upset and confuse a woman. Knowing what these types of results mean can help a woman to better protect her health.
A false positive cervical smear test happens when a woman is told she has abnormal cells (on and around her cervix), but the cells are in fact normal. A false positive result means that there is no problem. This is only will be confirmed after colposcopic examination. A false negative cervical smear test happens when a woman is told her cells are normal, but in fact, there is a change in the normal, healthy cells. This means there may be a problem and there may be a need for more tests. There are many things that can interfere with accurate cervical smear test results. This is why women need to be sure to get regular cervical smear tests. Having regular cervical smear tests increases a woman's chances that any problems will be picked up over time.

Is there anything new or being developed to improve the accuracy of cervical smear tests? >

While the standard smear test is very good at detecting problems, new methods are being developed to improve the accuracy of cervical smear tests. The National Institute for Clinical Excellency (NICE) has recently approved a new method to help reduce false negative cervical smear test results and the inadequate ones. One is called the Thin-Prep test (Liquid Based Cytology), where cervical cells are placed in a different way than with the standard smear test. This may make it easier to detect abnormal cells. Other methods use computers to scan the cervical cells to look for abnormal cells. These new methods cost more than the standard Pap smear test and are not at the moment practised by all GP’s and all NHS hospitals. However it is covered by most of the private medical insurances. Research is been done and showed that are in fact thin prep test more accurate than the standard Pap smear test. The recommendation that all GP’s and NHS Hospitals will provide this service very soon.

Do sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) cause cancer of the cervix? >

One type of STD, called HPV, or the humanpapilloma virus, has been linked to cancer of the cervix. HPV can cause wart-like growths on the genitals. When it is not treated or happens frequently, HPV can increase a woman's chances of developing cancer of the cervix. HPV is a very common STD, especially in younger women.

 

What increases a woman's risk for cancer of the cervix? >

Any woman can get cancer of the cervix. But, the chances of getting cancer of the cervix increase when a woman:

·         Starts having sex before age 18.

·         Have many sexual partners.

·         Have sexual partners who have other sexual partners.

·         Has or has had Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) or genital warts.

·         Has or has had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

·         Is over the age of 60.

·         Smokes.