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admin 23.11.2013

Cells of the cervix can become exposed to a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) through sexual activity. If a test report comes back as abnormal, this does not usually mean that there is cervical cancer present. Since this test is an important screening tool for cancer of the cervix, it’s essential to understand how the test works. Although they sound similar, HPV has nothing to do with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). If you are suffering from symptoms of a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted disease, or if you are having your period, it can make it difficult for your Pap test to be interpreted.
Women can expect to stop having Pap tests somewhere between age 65 and 70, if they have had regular Pap testing in the past and the results have been normal. Initially a woman may be afraid to have a Pap test and worried that it will hurt, but it should not be painful. Recent research in Canada shows that about 20 to 33 per cent of women have been exposed to HPV, but these numbers are likely much higher in younger women. A speculum is an instrument made out of plastic or metal which is gently inserted into the vagina. For this reason, many doctors prefer not to do a Pap test if you have symptoms of an infection or abnormal discharge from the vagina.


If a woman has an abnormal test, she may require more frequent testing (once every six months for two years). It is important that women who have stopped having Pap tests still go to see their family doctor every year to make sure that the rest of their reproductive system (and body) remain healthy.
Pap testing is meant to be done on healthy women, who do not have any symptoms of cervical cancer. There are other tests, such as colposcopy and cervical biopsy, which take a closer look at these abnormal cervical cells. There are about 70 types of HPV known so far, and about 24 types are linked to cervical cancer.
It holds the walls of the vagina apart so that a sample of cells can be taken from the surface of the cervix. If the Pap test shows certain changes, the woman will sometimes need a repeat Pap test done at a colposcopy clinic.
Women who have had a hysterectomy (where the uterus, with or without the ovaries, are removed) can also stop having Pap testing under certain conditions.
It tests the cervix to see if there are cells that have become irritated and are at risk of developing into cancer. Remember also that it can take five to 20 years for abnormal cervical cells to become cancerous.


These strains of HPV can infect and irritate cells of the cervix, eventually leading to cervical cancer in some women.
The doctor uses a small wooden spatula and a soft-bristled brush to collect some cells from the cervix. This is a special clinic where the doctor can look at the cervix through a microscope while obtaining a sample of cells.
If a woman has problems that may be due to cervical cancer, a normal Pap test will not be that helpful. Abnormal Pap tests should be discussed with your doctor so that you understand what extra testing you may require. Symptoms like pain with intercourse, or abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina may mean that a Pap test may not provide useful answers. Treating the cells in a precancerous state makes cervical cancer almost completely preventable.
The cervix is visible at the very end of the vagina (birth canal) - see diagram on opposite page.



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