PAP Smear

A PAP smear, named after the developer, Dr Papanicolaou, is a procedure whereby cells are taken from the surface of the cervix, simply by rubbing a long Q-tip along the edge. This is done through a speculum, the device that holds the vagina open and allows the gynecologist to see inside. This takes just a split second and should not hurt at all. The cervical matter is placed in a test tube and sent for testing.

It is a highly effective test of early-stage cervical cancer. Until recently, this was the best way known to fight cervical cancer but in the last year a vaccine has been approved that partially protects against infection with HPV (Human Papillomavirus). HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that could have no symptoms for years, until for some women, it shows up in the form of cell changes on the cervix, which can lead to cancer, unless treated.

It is generally recommended that a sexually active woman be tested every year for 3 years, and if negative, she should then have a PAP smear every 2-3 years. If you have had unprotected and unsafe sex, it would be wise to inform your gynecologist and test according to the need. These recommendations tend to differ slightly from country to country.

Back to Girl, Get Thee to a Gynecologist


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