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A Pap Smear test is a screening test for cervical cancer. It is used to detect abnormal or potentially abnormal cells from the vagina and uterine cervix. Various bacterial, fungal, and viral infections of the uterus may also be detected using this test.
Cervical cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the cervix, the narrowed bottom portion of a woman's uterus. Cervical cancer begins slowly. The earliest, precancerous changes cause the cells lining the inside or outside of the cervix to appear different from normal cervical cells. These changes, when present on a Pap test, are called ""atypical cells."" However, atypical cells are not entirely specific for a precancerous condition and can temporarily appear in response to infections or irritation of the cervix lining. If precancerous, the atypical cells can become more abnormal in appearance over time and are more likely to progress to cancer if left untreated.
Pap tests, when performed routinely, have been a great help in the detection and treatment of areas of precancerous cells, which help to prevent cervical cancer from developing. In addition, the test can help detect cervical cancer in the early stages, when it is most treatable. The Pap test is also used to monitor any abnormalities or unusual findings. In many cases, these findings are part of the body's repair process and often resolve themselves without any further treatment.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infections with certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV types 16 and 18 account for about 70% of cervical cancers in the U.S. HPV DNA tests detect the high-risk HPV types and are currently recommended along with a Pap test every 5 years for women age 30-65. HPV tests are not recommended for younger women because HPV infections are common in this age group and usually resolve without treatment. However, if a young woman has an abnormal Pap test, then HPV testing may be done.
In 2015, a panel of experts representing several major health organizations developed interim guidelines that say that HPV testing without a Pap test may be offered as an option for cervical cancer screening to women age 25 and older.
Cervical Smear; Cervical/Vaginal Cytology, Pap Test; Papanicolaou Test.
PAP Smear test is done to screen for cervical cancer and certain vaginal or uterine infections. For women age 21 or older, once every 3 to 5 years depending on your age, risk factors, use of other screening tests, and your healthcare provider's advice.