WHAT IS A PAP SMEAR?
The pap test, also called the papanicolaou smear is a test used to screen for cervical cancer. To do a pap smear, a speculum is used to open the vagina. A few cells are taken from the cervix (an opening below the uterus) with a brush or small spatula. These cells are tested in a lab for changes that may lead to cervical cancer and changes that look like cervical cancer.
WHO SHOULD HAVE THE TEST?
WHAT DOES AN ABNORMAL PAP TEST MEAN?
WHAT IS HPV?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact to the genital area (sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex). The risk of HPV infection increased with the number of sexual partners a person has. Both men and women can get infected. Usually, there are not signs or symptoms of an HPV infection and some even resolve without treatment.
DOES HPV CAUSE CERVICAL CANCER?
In 10-20% of women with HPV infection, the virus may persist. This leads to an increased chance of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer usually takes 10-20 years to develop from an HPV infection, and that is why regular screening though pap tests and HPV testing can help prevent cervical cancer. There are dozens of different HPV virus subtypes. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the two subtypes that are most associated with cervical cancer in the United States.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR/CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER?
Infection with certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus) leads to increased risk of cervical cancer. Specifically, HPV types 16 and 18 are high risk for cervical cancer. Those who have multiple sex partners, smoke, or use medications that weaken the immune system are at risk of cervical cancer. It takes years for an HPV infection to become cervical cancer.
I'VE HAD THE HPV VACCINE. DO I STILL NEED SCREENING FOR CERVICAL CANCER?
Yes. There are over 100 subtypes of HPV. The HPV vaccines protect against only certain types of HPV (6, 11, 16, 18). These are the most common types in the United States associated with cervical cancer, but you still need screening because you can still get infected with other types.
WHAT IS COLPOSCOPY?
Colposcopy is a procedure that uses a colposcope to get a better view of cervical cells. A colposcope, is a magnifying device that makes seeing cervical cells easier.
WHY IS COLPOSCOPY DONE?
Colposcopy is often done after an abnormal pap test or HPV test or if there are abnormal areas on cervix, vagina or vulva like genital warts, cervicitis, polyps, pain and bleeding.
HOW IS COLPOSCOPY DONE?
Colposcopy takes 5-10 minutes and is done in the office. It is performed similarly to a pelvic exam. You will lie on your back, while a doctor uses a speculum to open your vagina. The doctor will use a colposcope to look at your cervix. A Colposcope is like a microscope on a stand. If there is abnormal tissue, the doctor will remove a small piece for a biopsy.
You should avoid the following at least 24 hours before the test: Douching, using tampons, vaginal medications and having sex.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AFTER A COLPOSCOPY?
Most women feel fine and may return to work or school on the same day or following day. If you had a biopsy you may feel cramping, minor bleeding and vaginal discharge a few hours after the exam.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING AFTER COLPOSCOPY
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| © 2014-2018 copyright Taraneh Shirazian, MD