Pap Test: How important is it?

May 15, 2018 Source: Internal - Amina

How many times have you walked into a clinic and have heard of a Pap test but have very little information of it? This is the case for many as we avoid simple check-ups that can ultimately be lifesaving because of the little knowledge we have of them. Papanicolaou (Pap) test is among such tests which women are recommended to take that involves the cervix to detect for abnormalities.

What is a Pap test?

A Pap test is mainly a procedure to detect cervical cancer. It tests for the presence of cancerous cells on the cervix (an opening of the uterus). It screens and diagnoses for precancerous conditions of the vagina and also detects infection and inflammation of the lower female reproductive system.

How is it done?

The Pap test is recommended to be performed when the individual is not menstruating. It should be done in the middle of the cycle, about 10-20 days after the first day of period. Avoid doing the test during treatment of cervical or vaginal infection and keep away from having sexual intercourse 24 hours before the Pap test. A doctor can be consulted as to when the test should be done and for more information on the guidelines on how to prepare for the test.

The Pap test involves placing a speculum (medical device) in the vagina and then cervical cells are collected to be tested for. Some light bleeding after 1-2 days of the test may be experienced. The results are may take 2-8 weeks to deliver for a Pap test.

When do I need a Pap test?

The Pap test is performed depending on age, medical history and risks.

  • Ages 21-29: Most government guidelines recommend the test to be performed every three years if you are at least 21 years old and are sexually active.
  • Ages 30-69: The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care recommend to have the test done every three years.
  • Ages 70 or older: Further tests are not needed if the previous tests have been normal.
  • Medical history and risks include if you are HIV-positive, have a weekend immune system due to chemotherapy or an organ transplant, and if you have a history of cervical cancer.