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Wells Road Medical Centre

Pap Smear: The Importance of This Women’s Health Screening

The increasing rate of cervical cancer worldwide highlights the importance of screening tests to detect early precancerous signs. One of the most widely known and used tests is a pap smear. This examination is a lifesaver—it helps identify abnormal cell growth before it’s too late and it turns into cancer.

Ahead, we’ll discover the importance of pap smear tests and how they can help detect early signs of cervical cancer. Read on to learn more!

What is a Pap Smear Test?

A doctor talking to her female patient

 

A doctor talking to her female patient

Also popularly known as the Pap test, a Pap smear test is a medical screening procedure for cervical cancer to check whether there is a precancerous or other warning of cancerous cells in the cervix.

The cervix represents the narrow, lower section of the uterus, where it joins with the top end of the vagina.

What Can a Pap Smear Detect?

Cervical cancer

 

Cervical cancer

In a Pap smear test, your healthcare provider will detect cervical cancer signs and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia by taking a sample from your cervix. Besides, this test is typically run in conjunction with an HPV test, as human papillomavirus can also cause cervical cancer.

What are the Differences Between a Pelvic Exam and a Pap Smear Test?

A uterus model held by a doctor

 

A uterus model held by a doctor

While a Pap smear test specifically screens the cervix area as a cervical cancer screening test, a pelvic test is a general checkup of reproductive organs and gynecological health.

During a pelvic test, your doctor examines your vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, and pelvis for any abnormalities, often incorporate inserting an instrument called a speculum into your vagina.

Typically, women have their first pelvic exam around 18 years old and continue to have routine pelvic exams during annual checkups. Meanwhile, women should have their first Pap smear around 21 years old and continue with the test every three years (as recommended by your doctor).

What are the Differences Between a Pap Smear and an HPV Test?

HPV test sample

 

HPV test sample

While a Pap smear test is often run combined with an HPV test, they both serve different purposes.

A Pap smear focuses on collecting a sample of cells from your cervix to identify any abnormal changes that could lead to cancer. On the other hand, a test for HPV directly checks for the presence of the human papillomavirus or HPV infection, which is usually sexually transmitted and can cause cervical cancer.

Who Needs a Pap Smear?

A young adult woman rising her finger

 

A young adult woman raising her finger

The Department of Health and Aged Care conducts a yearly national cervical screening program. They recommend women of under these conditions to get a subsidised Pap smear test:

     

      • Age range: People aged 25 to 74 years old

      • Sexual Activity: Individuals who are currently sexually active or have been in the past

      • Gender and Anatomy: Women or persons with a cervix

    You can get your initial screening at age 25 or two years after your last Pap test, followed by screenings every five years.

    How Often Do You Need a Pap Smear?

    A doctor giving explanation to her patient

     

    A doctor giving an explanation to her patient

    The frequency depends on factors like age, health history, and previous Pap or HPV test results; typically, a cervical screening test every 3 to 5 years is recommended. Most people don’t need to take this test after age 65 if prior screenings were normal and they’re not at high risk for cervical cancer.

    Also, please note thar routine screening begins at age 25—no need for cervical screening before age 25. 

    What Do the Results of a Pap Smear Imply?

    A doctor explaining results to her patient

     

    A doctor explaining results to her patient

    Normal or abnormal, these two are the possible results from the test. Based on the result, your doctor will give tailored recommendations for further steps to take, such as a follow-up procedure called colposcopy.

    Normal Pap Smear

    Results are normal when no abnormal cells are detected in the cervix. This result is also known as a negative result. 

    Abnormal Pap Smear

    Abnormal results don’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Instead, the test detects abnormal cells which can be precancerous in your cervix and may develop into cancer. Screening results may indicate low-grade dyskaryosis (mild cell changes), high-grade dyskaryosis (moderate or severe cell changes), or borderline changes where cells don’t show cancer.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    People over 65 and those who underwent a total hysterectomy may consider stopping this test.

    Generally, this test is a safe procedure. However, it may miss some abnormal cell detection. Ask your doctor for further actions, such as whether you need a procedure called colposcopy.

    Typically, this test doesn’t hurt; it’s just a bit uncomfortable. 

    Conclusion

    A Pap smear, also typically called a Pap test, is a cervical screening test that identifies precancerous cells in the cervix, aiding early cancer detection. If you fall within the age group for routine Pap smears, it’s essential to have them regularly to prevent cancerous cells from spreading beyond the cervix. Wells Road Medical Centre provides cervical screening services, ensuring timely and effective care. Contact us now!