Women within the age of 21 to 65 can have a Pap Smear done once every 3 years or as recommended by the doctor. If you are found to be at risk for Cervical Cancer, you may need to have the test done more frequently.
Q:What is a Pap Smear Test?
Dr:A Pap Smear or a Pap Test involves taking cells from the cervix (lower end of uterus, top of your vagina), to test for Cervical Cancer and/or other infections. The procedure may be accompanied with a pelvic examination and a test for human papillomavirus (HPV)
Q:Is the test done under sedation?
Dr:No. It is an outpatient procedure. The patient is required to lie down flat on her back with her knees bent. An instrument called a speculum is then gently inserted into the vagina to hold the vaginal walls apart, while the doctor collects cell samples using a soft brush and scraper from the cervix.
Q:At what age should a woman have a Pap Smear and how often thereafter?
Dr:Women should start at the age of twenty-one. They can have a Pap Smear done once every 3 years or as recommended by the doctor. If you are found to be at risk for Cervical Cancer, you may need to have the test done more frequently. HPV testing along with the Pap test can be done once in 5 years.
Q:What risk factors make it necessary to have a frequent Pap test?
Dr:Women with the following risk factors:
Q:What is HPV?
Dr:HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. It is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. HPV testing in women is like the Pap Test. The doctor will collect swab cells from the cervix and send it to the lab for testing. There are over one hundred types of HPV. Several HPV infections cause warts, and some lead to cancer. Vaccines can protect against cancers caused by HPV strains that cause cancer and genital warts.
Q:Is a Pap Smear required only for sexually active women?
Dr:Not necessarily. It is more to do with age. Women younger than 21 years of age and older than 69 years of age are considered least likely to develop Cervical Cancer. In most cases, cervical cancer is caused by sexually transmitted HPV. However, there is a minimal risk of cervical cancer other than HPV. Always better to consult your doctor.
Q:Who need not worry about Cervical Cancer or Pap tests?
Dr:Women younger than twenty-one are not at risk of cervical cancer, irrespective of sexual activity. Even if they have abnormal cells, the body’s immune system will take care of them. Similarly, women who have had a complete hysterectomy need not do a pap test unless the hysterectomy was done for precancer cells in cervix or for cancer. Also, women above the age of sixty-nine who have had a routine pap test that came back normal, need not take regular pap tests thereafter.
Q:Is there a vaccine to protect against Cervical Cancer?
Dr:Yes, certain cancer-causing strains of HPV can be stopped by currently available vaccines. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women in the age 9 to 26. In case you have not taken the HPV vaccine course, consult with your doctor to find out when to get your first shot.
SENIOR CONSULTANT – OBSTETRICS & GYNAECOLOGY
MBBS, DGO, MS (OG), DNB (OG) , FMAS