Once you turn 21 or become sexually active, you should get regular Pap smear tests. The Pap Smear test is a routine part of a yearly gynecological exam, along with a breast exam, palpation of your abdomen, and a discussion with your gynecologist. Abnormal pap smears should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a physician for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. It may be a sign of a serious illness or condition.
While performing a Pap smear, your gynecologist actually brushes cells from your cervix after inserting a speculum in your vagina. The tissue samples then are sent to a lab to be analyzed. Pap smears allow your doctor to track any changes in your cervix, which could be indicative of several things, including cancer.
The Pap smear results may contain any of the following:
- Normal cells
- Abnormal cells
- Presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
Normal cells constitute a negative result. Abnormal cells, and even the presence of HPV, can tell your local gynecologist several different things. A Pap smear allows your doctor to catch conditions in a very early stage — before the development of cervical cancer. Luckily, this is a very slow-growing form of cancer, so it can take years before it becomes life-threatening.