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A Pap smear test is a screening procedure for cancer of cervix. It tests for the presence of any precancerous lesions or cancerous cells on your cervix.During this procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped and examined for abnormal changes.

What is paps smear diagnostic test and how it is done?

Cervical cancer screening with paps smear test is an important part of a woman’s routine health check up. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a virus, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).It is a sexually transmitted virus.Screening helps to identify precancerous lesions of cervix. These precancerous lesions may later on develop into cervical cancer.So screening with paps smear helps in early diagnosis of these cases. Routine cervical screening greatly reduce the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths due to early detection and treatment.

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For cervical screening only paps smear test can be done or co testing with HPV DNA. Co testing involves paps test as well as testing of HPV infection in the cervix. Co testing checks the same cell sample for both high-risk HPV types and cervical cell changes.

Paps smear test

In paps smear test a small brush,also known as cyto brush is used.It is like a broom and is used to gently remove cells from the surface of the cervix and the area around it .After that the cells are checked under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. A Pap smear may also help find other conditions, such as infections or inflammation. Same sample can be used for HPV DNA test.Also called Pap test and Papanicolaou test.

Who needs paps smear test?

All women should get their first Pap smear around the age of 21 years. It is generally recommend getting a Pap smear every three years until age 65. 

At the age of 30 years, there is an option to combine Pap smears with HPV DNA test. If co testing is done then the tests are repeated every 5 years.

If you had your uterus removed but your cervix is still intact, Pap smears are still needed to diagnose any pathology of cervix. After age 65, you can stop getting Pap tests if your previous tests are normal.

How often should I get my paps test done?

You should have the test every 3 years from ages 21 to 65. If paps testing is combined with HPV DNA testing, then you can be tested every 5 years instead. HPV (human papilloma virus)is a sexually transmitted virus .It is implicated is most of the cases of cervical cancer.

less than 21 yearsNot required
21-29 yearsEvery 3 years
30-65 yearsEvery 3 years with paps test,every 5 years if co testing with HPV DNA test
more than 65 yearsNot required if previous paps test normal

In following conditions, your doctor may recommend you have a Pap more often. Theses are:-

  • Previous paps smear test report showed precancerous lesion
  • HIV infection
  • A weakened immune system due to chronic corticosteroid use, organ transplantation, chemotherapy, etc
  • Smoking

Do you need a paps test if not sexually active?

Even if you are not sexually active you still need a paps smear test.

Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which is sexually transmitted. However, not all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, so Pap tests are necessary whether you’re sexually active or not.

How do I prepare for a paps test?

For most accurate paps smear result follow these tips atleast 48 hours prior to your test:-

  • Avoid intercourse
  • avoid any vaginal douching, or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jelly
  • Make sure your periods are completely over.Schedule your test after 10 days of your periods.

Is paps smear test painful?

Paps test is not painful but a little uncomfortable.Slight pain may be felt when your doctor will insert the speculum into your vagina.

Different people have different pain threshold.What is very painful for one person may be like a little pinch for another person.

Following measures can be done to minimize the pain:-

  • Practice deep breathing during the exam. 
  • Try to relax your pelvic muscles.
  • You can take a pain killer half hour before your appointment for paps test.

How long does a paps smear take?

Best part is that ,paps smear test usually takes less than a minute . The whole procedure of lying down,making proper position can take 5-10 min.

Proper relaxation of pelvic muscles is required for a quick procedure.

What if paps test result is positive?

If the results of your Pap smear test comes positive, that means there are abnormal or unusual cells on your cervix.It doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer.

Most often, the abnormal test result means there have been changes in the morphology of cells. Changes in the cervical cells caused by HPV can be mild, moderate, or severe.

You will be needing more frequent testing if your result is positive.And that depends on what type of abnormal cells are found in your cervix.

If your Pap smear is abnormal, you may require a procedure called colposcopy to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva.During colposcopy biopsy from the abnormal looking area on the cervix are taken. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis and a definitive diagnosis.


So it can be concluded that if you are more than 21 years of age you should get your paps test done. Even if you are not sexually active then also screening should start from 21 year of age.

Screening with paps test helps in early detection of any precancerous lesions. These if diagnosed and treated early do not usually progress to cause cervical cancer.



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