Pap Smear Test, HPV & Colposcopy
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear is a procedure to test for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second-most common type of cancer in women. Detecting cervical cancer early with a pap smear gives you a greater chance to cure it. Pap smear is a simple, quick, and painless screening test. If you have an abnormal Pap smear result, our doctor may repeat the Pap test, perform an HPV test, or perform a Colposcopy.
HPV is the Human Papilloma virus,which is sexually transmitted and may be spread from one person to another even when genital sores are not visible. Many sexually active people are carriers of HPV, very often without even knowing they are carriers. HPV is not curable, although the cellular damage is generally treatable. A woman with HPV needs careful and regular long-term medical follow-up to watch for any resulting HPV-associated pre-cancerous cellular changes.
How Pap smear is done?
Pap test involves collecting cells from your cervix – the lower, narrow end of your uterus that is at the top of your vagina. The sample of cells from a woman’s cervix is collected and spread (smeared) on a microscope slide. The cells are examined under a microscope in order to look for any cellular changes.
When do I start having Pap test?
You should start having Pap test 3 years after first vaginal intercourse, no later
than age 21, whichever comes first.
How often should I have Pap test?
You should have a Pap smear at least every two years. Some women may need them more
frequently. Our gynecologist will determine how often this test needs to be done for you.
What Is HPV?
A human papilloma virus (HPV) test is done to find a high-risk HPV infection in women. There are over 70 different strains of HPV virus. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix. HPV is typically transmitted through sexual contact. This test will identify whether a high-risk type of HPV is present. In women, high-risk types of HPV (such as types 16, 18, 31, and 45) cause changes in the cells of the cervix. Abnormal cervical cell changes may resolve on their own without treatment. But some untreated cervical cell changes can progress into serious abnormalities and may lead to cervical cancer over time if it is not treated.
Who should get HPV tests?
There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause warts that you can see or feel. Other types do not cause any symptoms. Most people do not know they have an HPV infection.
Although HPV is found in both men and women, this test is not used on men.
What happens if I have an abnormal Pap test result?
Many women have abnormal Pap test results. Most often, abnormal Pap test results do not mean that you have cervical cancer. So do not panic! Our doctor’s recommendation will be to follow abnormal pap result with a repeat pap test in 3 to 6 months or with HPV screening test. A physician would more aggressively treat a woman with an abnormal Pap smear if she tests positive for high risk HPV type that is more likely to be associated with the development of cervical cancer. Colposcopy might be a next step.
What can I do to prevent Cervical Cancer?
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by getting regular cervical cancer screenings, using condoms and talking with us to find out if you should get the HPV vaccine.
A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these cells early is your first step in preventing the possible development of cervical cancer.
What is Colposcopy?
Colposcopy is a way for your doctor to use a special magnifying device to look at your vagina and cervix. It may be done to check areas of abnormal tissue found during a Pap test. If a problem is seen during Colposcopy, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken from the cervix or from inside the opening of the cervix. The sample is looked at under a microscope. This can show whether the cells have changes that may be signs of cancer.
Treatments for abnormal cells are highly effective these days. Two common types are Cryotherapy and Leep.