Friday, 18 November 2011

Importance of Pap Smears

Every woman who is sexually active should have a pap smear or pap test at least once per year. 
A pap smear should be done:
- If you are over 21 years old
- If you are a teenager but have been having sex for at least three years.
In general a woman can stop having pap years when she is 70-years old. This only advised if she has had no abnormal pap smears in the last 10 years.


What is a Pap Smear?

This is a relatively quick procedure which involves a doctor taking a small sample of cells from the cervix or neck of the womb. The procedure is named after the doctor who first discovered that cervical cells changed before cancer of the cervix develops. Dr. George Papanicolaou made his observation in 1928.
The procedure is done by the doctor using an instrument called a speculum to widen the vaginal walls so as to see the cervix. A special stick is then used to remove a small sample of tissue which is then smeared onto a glass slide. This sample is then sent to a lab where it is examined for any abnormalities. If any unusual cells are detected, further tests are done to determine if treatment is needed. This is the best way to find out if cancerous or precancerous cells are present.



Pap Smear

Ideally the test should be done anywhere from 10 to 20 days after the first day of a menstrual cycle. Before having a pap smear a woman should ideally avoid some activities for at least two days before the procedure:
- Having sexual intercourse
- Using any type of vaginal sprays, deodorants or douches
- Using any type of medications that are inserted vaginally
- Using a tampon
Doing any of these things can alter the real state of cervical cells. This could lead to an incorrect result when the cells are sent for testing. The procedure is generally painless but many women find it uncomfortable.


Why Have a Pap Smear

A pap smear is useful in identifying precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix, not for identifying cancer. Despite the plight of reality TV star Jade Goody and thousands of women worldwide, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Treatment and a positive outcome are however dependent on it being caught in its early stages. This is why this procedure is considered a fundamental aspect of women’s overall health.
In addition to identifying possible precancerous cells, a pap test can also identify infections. The importance of a pap smear in saving lives cannot be overemphasized.

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