A Pap Smear also known as a the Papanicolaou test, Pap test, cervical smear, or smear test, can detect cancerous and precancerous or malignant processes in the ectocervix.
An abnormal pap smear can indicate if there is anything wrong or a malignancy present which could help detect and prevent cervical cancer.
In this gynecological procedure, cells from the mouth of the uterus, the cervix are collected by scraping with a tool in order to see whether it is a normal or abnormal pap smear that would require attention and treatment.
The reason that taking a pap smear is recommended is that having the rest as suggested can considerably reduce one’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
What is a normal Pap smear?
Generally speaking, a pap smear seeks to check for any signs that cells found in the cervical area are changing from normal to abnormal.
When the test results from a pap smear show no pathologic change, this is considered to be normal. If the cells of the cervix are normal and healthy, this means that the pap smear is normal.
Does an abnormal pap smear mean I have cancer?
Cancer is not an overnight occurrence; it is a slow and gradual process whereby changes start to occur long before one actually develops cancer.
However, not all abnormal pap smears mean that one has cancer or that one will develop it at a later stage. An abnormal pap smear can indicate a number of different conditions such as:
- Inflammation – if an abnormal pap smear shows inflammation of the cells this may indicate the presence of an infection
- Presence of squamous cells which could be present either due to a premalignant or precancerous change or they may be present due to the inflammation.
- Cervical dysplasia- this is when the pap smears results are abnormal; the abnormality could be precancerous (that is to say they may develop into malignancy or non cancerous.
- In the worst case scenario, an abnormal pap smear will indicate presence of cancer and that the cancerous cells have spread into the cervix or even other nearby organs.
If I have an abnormal pap smear what should I do?
If there are signs of cervical dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, the condition is graded from mild to severe.
Mild cases usually do not require treatment and subside on their own. However, a moderate to severe condition will require further evaluation and thereafter, treatment.
What is the best way to avoid getting cervical cancer?
Getting the pap smear test done regularly as recommended and steering clear of the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) is the best way to avoid getting cervical cancer.
It is generally recommended that every woman over the age of 21 and under the age of 65 should get a pap test done every 2 years. Women who are immune compromised or those that have certain other conditions may be required to have pap smears done more often.