Confused about what Pap smear is and when to do it? Well, you are not alone.
Pap smear or Pap test is a method of detecting abnormal cells in the cervix which helps in detecting cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer and what causes it?
Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix. In the United States, about 4210 women die from cervical every year. It is now known that Human Papillomavirus infection (HPV) is the most important risk factor in the development of cervical cancer and nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection. Most of the HPV infections are cured on their own, but few of them could progress to precancerous lesions. It takes about 10 – 15 years for precancerous lesions to progress to cervical cancer but fortunately most of these lesions never become malignant. So if we can detect these changes and treat them in time, we can prevent cervical cancer.
What is Pap smear?
Pap smear is a procedure of collecting cells from the cervix. Cells are collected by scraping the cervix using brush or spatula and are sent to a laboratory to see under a microscope. This procedure takes less than five minutes and causes very little or no discomfort.
Why should one do a Pap smear?
Precancerous changes in the cervix may not produce any symptoms. Pap smear can detect changes in the cervix caused by HPV infection. When changes are detected early, they are easier to treat, preventing progression to cervical cancer.
How often should Pap smear be done?
According to American Cancer society’s recent guidelines –
- Women under age of 21 years: Not required to do Pap smear.
- Women between 20 – 29 years: Need a Pap smear every three years. They are not recommended to have HPV testing as HPV infection is very common in this age group and the majority of these infections clear on their own.
- Women between 30 – 65 years: Need Pap smear + HPV testing every five years, and if only Pap smear is carried out, then it should be every three
- Women above 65 years: Can stop cervical cancer screening if a woman has two normal Pap and HPV test in the last ten years or three normal pap smears in past ten years.
The Department of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist of PrimaCare Speciality Clinic offers clinical laboratory services including Pap smear in Dubai to help detect cervical cancer at its very early stage.
Written By :
Dr. Vaishali Srinivas Joshi
MBBS, DGO, MRCOG ( UK)
Specialist Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
PRIMACARE Speciality Clinic, Bur Dubai