Cervical cancer prevention: Women over 30 must get a Pap smear test done every 3-5 years, here is what it is
If you are over 30 years of age, it is imperative to get a simple Pap smear test done to rule out any human papillomavirus or HPV infection, which can lead to the deadly cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. Read on to know how you can prepare for the test, and what this simple procedure is all about.
Updated Mar 10, 2023 | 09:13 AM IST
You may feel a little irritation during the scraping, but no pain
There has been a considerable rise in cervical cancer
, a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix
across the world. According to health experts, it occurs most often in women over the age of 30, and the long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus, or HPV
is the main cause of cervical cancer. A simple pap-smear test can help you diagnose deadly cancer well in time.
Doctors say that HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. And according to studies, at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.
What is a pap smear test?
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a simple screening that finds the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on your cervix, which is the opening of the uterus.
According to the American Cancer Society
, basic cancer screening in women for cervical cancer should begin after 25. However, doctors recommend a Pap smear should be routinely conducted after 30 every five years since if cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.
Health experts say even if not sexually active, women must get regular pap smears done based on their age, as the HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active.
How is a Pap smear test conducted?
For the test, doctors say you need to take a little preparation, which involves
- If you are having your periods, get the test rescheduled as it will not come accurately
- Do not have sexual intercourse with your partner for at least 2 days before the test
- If you are pregnant, do not get the test done beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy
- Stay calm and relaxed and do not feel nervous
Even though they can be a little uncomfortable, pap smear tests are conducted very quickly. For the procedure, the doctor will make you lie straight on your back on the examination table with your legs spreading and feet resting.
Then the doctor will insert a device called a speculum into your vagina to keep the vaginal walls open and provide access to the cervix. A small sample of cells will then be scraped off the cervix using a spatula.
You may feel a little irritation during the scraping, but no pain. The samples are then sent to a lab to be tested.
After the procedure
According to doctors, some women may feel mild discomfort from scraping or cramps in the stomach. Also, mild bleeding can be experienced, but this is normal and will stop after a day.
Once you get your results, there are two possibilities
In case of the absence of any abnormal cells in the cervix, your pap smear test would be normal, or negative.
In this case, you do not need to take another test for the next three years.
In this case, the doctors may have found some pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. There are different levels of abnormal cells which range from mild to severe abnormalities.
Based on your pap smear, the doctor may recommend further tests, which include a colposcopy, or biopsy.
What does the HPV virus do?
HPV virus causes warts and increases the chance of cervical cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 are the primary causes of cervical cancer. If you have HPV, you may be at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.