What Happens During the Test?
It’s done in your doctor’s clinic and takes about 10 to 20 minutes.
You’ll lie on a table with your feet placed firmly in stirrups and you will spread your legs, and your doctor will insert a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina. He’ll open it so that it widens the vaginal walls so this allows him to see your cervix. Doctor will use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix and they will place them into a liquid substance in a small jar, and send them to a lab for review.
The Pap test doesn’t hurt, but you may feel a slight pinch or a bit of pressure.
What Do the Results Mean?
Your doctor will get them within a few days and they will come back either negative or positive.
A negative result is actually a good thing. That means doctor didn’t find any strange-looking cells on your cervix and you won’t need another Pap until you’re due for your next scheduled one.
If your results come back positive, it really doesn’t mean you have cancer.You could have slight inflammation. Or, you may have minor cell changes (doctors call this “dysplasia”) Very often, the abnormal test result means that there have been cellular changes caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). That is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and may be related to cervical cancer. Changes in cervical cells caused by HPV can be mild, moderate, or severe.
The mild changes often clear up on their own, so your doctor might take a “wait and see” approach.
The findings are categorised as listed below:
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined importance (ASCUS). Thin, flat cells called squamous cells grow on the surface of a healthy cervix. ASCUS occurs when these cells are not typical. Your doctor will perform a test with a special liquid to see if HPV is present. If not, there is probably no need to worry.
- Squamous intraepithelial lesion. These cells can be precancerous. Doctors call the changes “low grade” or “high grade.” If they are low-grade, a precancerous cell may not become cancer for many years. If it is high-grade, the cells could become cancer much sooner. Your doctor will likely order more tests, whether you find low or high-grade changes in these cells.
- Atypical glandular cells. These cells make mucus. They grow at the opening of your cervix and inside your uterus. If they appear to be abnormal, your doctor will order more tests to determine for sure if it is cancer.
- Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells. This means that the cells in your cervix are so abnormal that your doctor is almost certain it is cancer.
He’ll may recommend you have a further Pap test in a few months. If the abnormal cells haven’t cleared up by then, your doctor will probably order two other tests: a colposcopy and a biopsy.
Colposcopy and Biopsy. During a colposcopy, doctor will put in a speculum into your vagina, just like he did for the Pap test. This time, he’ll look at the cervix with a colposcope and that’s a tool that have a lens and a bright light that allow your doctor to obtain a good look at your cervix. Your doctor will swab your cervix with vinegar or some liquid solution. It will highlight any suspicious-looking areas. Your doctor will be able to see them on the colposcope through the lens.
If he find areas that don’t look right, he’ll take sample (“biopsy”). He’ll send the sample to a laboratory for further testing and he can swab your cervix with a chemical solution to limit bleeding.
Very often, the abnormal test result means that there have been cellular changes caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). That is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and may be related to cervical cancer. Changes in cervical cells caused by HPV can be mild, moderate, or severe.
How Often Should I Have a Pap Test?
Doctors advise you begin Pap testing at age 21. You should have the testing every 3years from age 21 to 65. You can choose to combine Pap testing with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing beginning at age 30. If you do so, then you can be tested every five years as an alternative. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it’s associated with cervical cancer.
If you have certain health problems, your doctor may recommend that you have a Pap test more often. Some of these include:
– Cervical cancer or a Pap test that revealed precancerous cells
– HIV infection
– A weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic use of corticosteroids.
– Having been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth.