- WHAT IS PAP SMEAR?
It is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women that involves collecting cells from the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus.
- WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
It helps in early detection of cervical cancer, hence improving chances of cure.
A Pap smear also detects changes in the cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is the first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer.
- WHY IS IT DONE?
To screen for cervical cancer.
The test is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. In women older than age 30, the Pap test may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. In some cases, the HPV test may be done instead of a Pap smear.
- WHO SHOULD DO A PAP SMEAR?
Any female above 21 years.
- HOW OFTEN SHOULD IT BE REPEATED?
Once every year. If combined with HPV test, the repeat can take even 5 years. However, depending on certain conditions, it can be repeated severally, of course with the doctor’s advice. These conditions include;
1.A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
2.Exposure to some hormones eg. diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
4.Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
5.A history of smoking
6. WHEN SHOULD YOU STOP DOING THE TEST?
- After an hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus and cervix)
- Old age i.e. 65 years and above.
Sally Gakii, Lab Superintendent, Imara Mediplus Hospital
Date posted: 6/10/18
- Smith RA, et al. Cancer screening in the United States, 2017: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017;67:100.
- Curry SJ, et al. Screening for cervical cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2018;320:674.