When was the last time you went for a health screening and your doctor advised you to get a Pap test done? It may sound scary, but with the risks of cervical cancer shooting up each day, you should book an appointment for it today. This blog post will throw light on what the test comprises and how you can prepare for it. Let’s understand the basics first.
What is a Pap smear test?
Your cervix and vagina have cells that undergo changes; especially if cancerous cells have been developing within them. So a pap test is where a doctor collects few cells from this area and tests them for presence of cancerous cells among-st them. The cancer in your cervix, can grow at an alarmingly fast rate, and a pap test is the most efficient way of diagnosing the disease early on. The test aims to detect cells like cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical dysplasia.
The age bracket for women contracting cervical cancer has widened deeply. So ideally, if you’re above the age of 21, you should get your cervix checked. You should then schedule an exam every two years.
For women above the age of 35, it is advisable to schedule a test every other year. If your reading is negative, even after you’re regularly getting yourself checked, then you can have one done every three-four years. Note that most doctors advice screening to stop at the age of 65.
Once you go for the test, the doctor will ask you to place your feet on stirrups. After a pelvic exam, a speculum is used to open the vagina so that the cervical cells can be collected. They are picked up by a medical brush. These cells are then tested for cancer. The procedure involves collecting of samples only, so it does not hurt. But it may cause slight discomfort.
How can you prepare for your Pap test?
- Make sure you inform your doctor about all the medicines you are on; including birth control. These medications may affect your test results.
- Mention if you’ve had an abnormal pap result in the past
- Pap testing should be avoided if you’re menstruating. The blood may affect accuracy of the test result.
- Avoid use of tampons and avoid having intercourse 24 hours before you have your test scheduled
- Do not apply any vaginal medicines before the test
What does it cost to perform a Pap smear Test in India?
Charges for a Pap smear test could be anywhere between Rs. 200 – Rs.1500, depending upon in which area of the country the test is being performed. Other expenses may get added that include the number of technicians needed to perform the test and the equipment used to process.
(You can search for the prices of Pap smear test in various Indian cities here).
Having an abnormal pap smear does not mean you have cancer. It just means that the cells in your cervix do not look normal. It may mean that you are HPV positive. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, not necessarily cancerous.
Sometimes it may mean that you have another infection, which may be easily curable. In women who are undergoing menopause, the test may be abnormal because the cell structure is changing.
If the test results are positive, then the doctor will perform a colposcopy where he will take a closer look at your cervix. This is done using an instrument very much like a magnifying glass.
If there is a trace of suspicion, then a biopsy is done. A sample of tissues is sent for further testing. If there is a presence of large number of abnormal tissues, then that area is removed entirely through a procedure called a conisation. This sample is taken to rule out invasive cancer.
In cases where the damage is higher, a hysterectomy is performed; however, this procedure is not generally advised by physicians. Sometimes a cryocauterization method is used. Laser therapy is also used which kills and vaporises the cells.
Anyone who has undergone a pap smear test and an abnormal testing procedure, must undergo regular follow-ups. Sometimes the cancerous cells grow very slowly and can be detected only during regular follow-ups.