There was once a time that disease ravaged our women, our young women perished from a disease that they could not predict, could not detect, and could not treat and one that they were helpless against. This aforementioned disease is none other than Cervical cancer, a disease that was the reason many women perished in the past because of its unpredictability and because it was particularly hard to detect considering it affects the inner parts of their reproductive organs.
This continued until the Pap smear test was invented and since then it has revolutionised the world of female medicine. A Pap smear test is a test done to find abnormal cellular changes in your cervix or vagina. Cost of Pap smear ranges from 11000 to 20000. Let me start by telling you what it is all about:
What is a Pap Smear Test
A Pap smear test is a test done to find abnormal cellular changes in your cervix or vagina. The Pap tests, popularly called Pap smears, are very important medical tests for finding abnormally growing cells on your cervix that may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. It is done to find any cell changes caused by HPVs in the cervix, but they don't detect the HPV in particular. The test basically looks for any peculiar changes in the normal cell growth of your cervix.
Please note that this is not a test for cancer. Although they may seem similar, the Pap smear function is to detect abnormal cells that could lead to serious problems like cervical cancer in the future, as Symptoms of these diseases may not be experienced beforehand until the condition is at an advanced stage when it then becomes really hard to control and treat, this is a dangerous stage.
The reason for it not being a cancer test is, that abnormal cells are not usually cancerous cells, especially if you happen to have regular screenings. However, if any abnormal cells should be noticed at screening and they seem malignant, then they can be closely observed and treated to prevent full-blown cervical cancer from developing in your reproductive organ
It has been shown that Regular Pap smear tests have proved to reduce the risk of advanced cancer by 90% on the average for women between the ages of 35 to 64.
Should I Get a Pap smear Test?
This is a very good question to ask. It is recommended you start getting regular Pap smear tests from the age of 21. Generally:
• If you are in between the ages of 21 to 29, it is advised to get a Pap test once every 3 years (from the age of 25, your doctor may combine it or switch to an HPV test, any one of these is good).
• If you are in between the ages of 30 to 65, it is advised to get a Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) once every 5 years, or just a Pap test or HPV test once every 3 years.
• If you happen to be older than 65, you are not required to have any Pap smear test any longer.
Mind you though, you may need to get Pap smear tests more often if you have ever had any problems with your cervix in the past, if you have a weak immune system, or if your mother happened to take a medicine called DES when she was carrying you in the womb. Your doctor will explain to you better which tests you need and how often you should get these tests.
What happens in the Test?
During the Pap smear test, your doctor will put a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. Once inside, then the speculum will open up to separate the walls of your vagina so that they can get to the cervix. Then a small sampler is deployed, this is a tiny spatula or brush that gently collects cells from your cervix. The collected cells are sent to a lab to be tested.
The Pap smear tests only take a few minutes and shouldn't hurt, but you might feel some discomfort or pressure when the doctor opens the speculum inside you. You may also experience a light scratching when cells are taken from your cervix.
Please note that if you have any health concerns, further to your test, I advise you to inform your doctor of them.
What does an abnormal result mean?
If after your test, you happen to get abnormal results, do not panic. It is a common thing to have unclear or abnormal Pap smear test results. It doesn’t mean you have cancer.
• A Pap smear test result that is unclear means that your cervical cells look like they could be abnormal. This doesn’t mean it is related to HPV or something else. Unclear results are also called equivocal or inconclusive.
• A Pap smear test result that is abnormal means that there are abnormal cell changes in your cervix. This doesn’t mean that you definitely have cervical cancer, as these changes could be natural. The changes in the cervix could be mild (low-grade) or could be serious (high-grade). Those that are serious are often called precancerous because they aren’t cancer cells yet but can turn into it over time, which means they can be treated immediately.
If you happen to have any of these, you need further tests or treatment including:
• Another Pap smear test to be sure
• A HPV test: This is a test that looks for high-risk types of a virus that can cause precancerous cells.
• A colposcopy: This is a special examination done by a doctor to look more closely at your cervix to see if there are any precancerous or cancerous cells.
If the doctor happens to find abnormal cells during the colposcopy, treatment is necessary.
Cost of Pap smear
The cost for a Pap smear test ranges from $30 to $40 in Nigeria.