I got to discover how much in error I was months later after stumbling on a topic that dwelt on Pap Smear Tests while reading a medical piece, and the need for women to get this test done so they can be safe from the demerits the lack of it might be posing.

I was made to understand that part of women’s health and how much of a serious matter it is, as well as the exact categories of women who should get a Pap smear Test done, if optimal health is in view.

In recent times, we have seen concerned individuals, groups, associations and even companies turn up en-masse in what they call ‘a run or walk for cervical cancer’ and the various dangers it poses to women, especially those who might be at risk of the disease, and to be honest, such efforts have done a lot in keeping women in the know on what they should be aware of as regards cancer of the cervix.

Much however, still has to be done on the need for more practicality where women can willfully and consciously make efforts to go get tested for cervical cancer. That way, they are better equipped with information and practical effort on the intricacies of cervical cancer. By now, I know you are itching to know where the whole of this is headed as you are yet to even see a definition of what a Pap Smear Test is.

For clarity purpose, The Pap Test got its name from its inventor, Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou, and is usually referred to as Pap smear for short. The Papanikolaou Test (abbreviated as Pap test, also known as Pap smear, cervical smear, cervical screening or smear test) is a method of screening used to detect potentially precancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix (opening of the uterus or womb) of women of certain ages.

In situations of abnormal findings where the test results are not so favourable, sensitive diagnostic procedures are usually adopted up by Doctors and if warranted, interventions that aim at preventing the progression of such to cervical cancer are equally introduced. The test was jointly invented with Dr. Aurel Babes but eventually named after Dr. Papanikolaou.
This test is achieved by the collection of cells from a woman’s cervix, that is, the lower, narrow end of the uterus that is at the top of the vagina. Detecting cervical cancer early enough through a Pap Smear Test gives one a greater chance at its cure.

As much as Pap Smear Tests are important, women below the ages of 21, even if sexually active, are not expected to get a Pap Smear Test done. In contrasting vein, women who are 21 years of age and above are encouraged to start going for periodic Pap Smear Tests, and intervals of between 3 – 5 years are usually advised.

Pap Smear Test is performed in the Doctor’s office and takes only a few minutes. Your doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into the vagina, where the speculum holds the walls of the vagina apart so that the doctor can easily see the cervix.

The Pap test, when combined with a regular programme of screening and appropriate follow-up, can reduce cervical cancer deaths in women by up to 80%, research says. Failure of prevention of cancer by the Pap test can occur for many reasons, including not getting regular screening, lack of appropriate follow-up of abnormal results, as well as sampling and interpretation errors.

In the US, over half of all invasive cancers occur in females that have never had a Pap smear; an additional 10 to 20% of cancers occur in those that have not had a Pap smear in the preceding five years. About one-quarter of US cervical cancers were in people that had an abnormal Pap smear, but did not get appropriate follow-up (patient did not return for care, or clinician did not perform recommended tests or treatment).

When it concerns the cervix, there is more than just one test that can be done. Other tests include:
• Conventional Pap — In a conventional Pap smear, sample is smeared directly onto a microscope slide after collection.
• Liquid-based cytology — Here, the sample of (epithelial) cells is taken from the Transitional Zone; the squamo-columnar junction of the cervix, between the ecto and endocervix.
Liquid-based cytology often uses an arrow-shaped brush rather than the conventional spatula in taking the sample of the cells.
The cells taken are suspended in a bottle of preservative for transport to the laboratory, where they are analysed using Pap stains.
Pap Tests commonly look for epithelial abnormalities/ metaplasia/ dysplasia and or, borderline changes, all of which may be indicative of CIN.
In addition, human papillomavirus (HPV) test may be performed either as indicated for abnormal Pap results, or in some cases, dual testing is done, where both a Pap smear and HPV test are done at the same time (also called Pap co-testing).
*To be continued

Source: By Glorya Gabriel

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