When and how often Should Someone Have a Pap Smear?

A pap smear test is a test where samples of cells are taken from the cervix by the doctor with the use of a brush or spatula. The cells are tested to look for changes in the cells that can result from cancer, HPV, precancer, inflammation or even infection. You can have a pap smear or pap test during your gynaecological examination or routine examinations.

What is the recommended age for a pap smear?

According to the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), all women between the ages of 21 and 65 should get regular pap smear tests. The pap smear test is not recommended for people under the age of 21 or people over 65 except under certain circumstances such as having abnormal results or the individual having increased risk of cancer.

How often should one have a pap smear based on age?

The number of times one should get tested based on age are as follows. But before you go, visit a private gynaecologist in London to consult and know the suitable frequency of test as your age and problems.

Ages 21 -29: When a woman gets to 21, she should start getting pap tests. If your test results are normal, your doctor will probably suggest that you wait for three years before going for another test.

Ages 30 -65: At this point, you can discuss with your doctor if you should have a pap test only or a pap test and HPV test. If you had a pap test only, and the results are normal, your doctor may equally suggest you wait another three years for the next one.

On the other hand, if you had a combined test with both results being normal, your doctor may suggest that you wait five years before getting tested again.

Ages above 65: For people who are older than 65, the doctor may suggest that the pap test is no longer necessary for the following reasons;

  • If they have had a full hysterectomy, with their cervix being removed by the doctor
  • If they have had normal screening test results for many years

On the other hand, people who are older than 65 can have pap smear tests if they are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Some of the risk factors for developing cervical cancer include;

  • Living with HIV
  • Being immunosuppressed
  • Being exposed to diethylstilbestrol before birth
  • Having previous treatment for cervical cancer or a precancerous cervical lesion

Preparing for a pap smear

Generally, there is nothing serious that needs to be done before a pap smear. If the individual is on her period, they should check with their clinician or doctor if it would be fine to continue with the test at that period or not. In some cases, the examination can go on even with the person menstruating. Other things, however, that should be avoided before a pap smear test include;

  • Using tampons or vaginal lubricants
  • Having sex
  • Using birth control foam, jelly or cream
  • Douching the vagina
  • Using vaginal creams or medications

Do I really need a pap smear?

Although it has been recommended that every woman from the age of 21 should always go for a pap smear test, some people actually wonder if they need it. The groups of people who wonder if they need a pap smear to include the following;

People who are pregnant: Sometimes, a doctor may recommend a pap test when the individual is pregnant. However, the person should speak to the doctor and find out if they really need one.

People who have had a hysterectomy: Women who have had a hysterectomy will still need to go for pap smear tests. However, this depends on their state of health, their medical history, and the type of hysterectomy they had.

People who have been through menopause: Even before 65, women should still have a pap smear test after menopause. If you are to continue the pap smear test after the age of 65, it will depend on whether or not you have risk factors for cervical cancer.

People who are not sexually active: The presence of abnormal cell growth can result from STIs such as HPV, which the pap smear test is for. However, you should note that a person can still develop cervical cancer even when they are not sexually active.

What happens during a pap smear?

A healthcare provider usually performs the pap smear during a routine care visit. During the visit, the person will be asked several questions regarding their health before the test is performed.

During the test, the person will lie down on their back with their legs separated. A speculum is then inserted into the vagina by the healthcare provider to keep the vaginal walls open. The healthcare provider will then take a sample of cervical cells using a brush or a spatula. The sample is then placed in a container filled with a fluid that will preserve the sample. This fluid is known as the transport medium. Afterwards, the speculum is then removed from the vagina.

During the procedure, the person might feel slight pain or discomfort or even pressure. However, they can reduce the chances of feeling discomfort by urinating before the test. There is no recovery time, as the person can leave after the pap test.

Test results

The test results will be ready in about 1-3 weeks after the test, depending on the lab the test was taken in. The individual can get the result through an online portal, and the results can be as follows;

Normal: If the results are normal, no further action will be required until the next routine exam.

Abnormal: Having abnormal cell results does not necessarily mean that the person has cancer. Further tests would have to be conducted, such as a colposcopy. Another pap smear will have to be conducted in another 6 months or 1 year.

Unclear: If the results are unclear, additional tests may have to be conducted in 6 months or 1 year.

You should know that the results from pap tests are not always accurate. You can have a falsely normal or falsely abnormal result. Also, note that pap tests do not check for STIs.

Symptoms to look out for

One might experience symptoms that indicate that they need to go for a Pap test or that they need to get tested for STIs. Some of the symptoms include the following;

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Lesions or warts
  • Pain during sexual intercourse or urination

Besides getting a pap smear test, you should also get tested for STI if you are sexually active. If you are looking for where to get PAP smear tests in London, contact us at Medical Express Clinic or visit your nearest Harley street health centre.

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