What Is A Pap Smear Test?

Pap smear testing is important for all women...read the facts that might save your life, or the life of a woman you love.

A simple test, so simple, in fact, that it takes less than 20 minutes at your doctor's office to complete, can save your life. Twenty minutes isn't much time to spend when it's your life you may be saving.

This test is called a Pap test, or a Pap smear. In a routine pap test cells are collected from a women's cervix. The sample is then sent to a lab to be studied for specific changes. These changes are "˜warning signs' which actually may appear years before cancer develops. When the results are "˜negative' the sample appeared normal and no warning signs were detected. When a test shows "˜positive' or "˜abnormal' this means changes in the cells were observed. It does not always mean cancer, but it is a serious matter.

Once you have your pap test, if the results are negative, you should still contact your health care provider if your experience any unusual or heavy bleeding. You should also continue to have regular pap smears to ensure future detection.

If you have a positive result, you must visit your health care provider again. Usually they will advise a second test, to be sure the results remain the same. They may also suggest a colposcopy (a closer examination of the cervix). Usually a biopsy will be requested (which is a larger sample of the cervical cells), and treatment. Luckily most problems associated with a positive pap smear can be treated by your health care professional.

What can cause an abnormal Pap test?

Many things, including: an infection (yeast, chlamydia, or genital herpes), irritation of the cervix (usually caused by birth control devices, douches or tampon), Low estrogen levels (which normally occur in older women due to abnormal estrogen levels), Dysplasia (this can be an indicator of an STD or the early warning stage of cancer) or, in very rare cases, Invasive cancer (severely abnormal cells that have spread deep into the cervix).

What happens after an abnormal Pap test?

If the cause is determined to be infection or inflammation the condition will be treated with medications. A follow up Pap test will be scheduled within 3-6 months.

If the cause is Mild Dysplasia you will either have a colposcopy or you may be asked to wait and retest in 3-6 months. In rare instances the Dysplasia will go away on its own.

Other Dysplasia, carcinoma or warts will be treated and ruled out with a colposcopy and a biopsy.

Other treatment options are available and should be discussed with your physician. These include Cryotherapy, Laser surgery, and, in necessary cases, Hysterectomy and radiation therapy.

Pap tests or smears are common and even routine preventative methods for women. Most clinics offer these in their well woman exams and your doctor should encourage you to have a test at least once a year, more often if you have unusual symptoms or family history.

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