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By:-Dr Disha Thakwani, HCL Healthcare13 Apr, 2018

Pap Smear - Pap Test for Cervical Cancer in Women


What is Pap smear?

Pap smear – also called as Pap test – is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the commonest cancers in women and an early detection is the best way to prevent it. Routine gynaecologic examinations and Pap tests are helpful in detecting conditions that can be treated before development of cervical cancer.

Pap smear is an important component of health check-up in women as it helps diagnose various abnormal cervical conditions and may identify cells that could lead to cervical cancer. Various abnormal cervical conditions include inflammation, infection, precancerous stage and cancer.


Who requires a Pap smear?

  • If you are less than 21 years of age, not sexually active and have no risk factor: No Pap smear is required
  • If  you are 21 years of age or more (and sexually active) or between 25 and 50 years of age: Pap smear should be done every 3 years
  • If  you are between 50 and 65 years of age: Pap smear should be done every 5 years
  • If  you are 65 years of age or more: If you have undergone regular screening in previous 10 years with no precancerous condition found then further screening can be discontinued. But if there is any history of precancerous condition (called as CIN2 / CINS) then screening should be continued.
  • HPV test: Pap smear testing may also be clubbed with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test as this virus has been linked with cervical cancer. In women aged 21-29 years, no HPV test is done while in women aged 30-65 years, HPV test should be done along with the Pap smear.
  • If you have received HPV vaccine previously then also you should follow the screening and get Pap test done
  • Pap test after hysterectomy: If you have undergone partial hysterectomy (with cervical stump left), Pap test (vaginal vault smear) should be done. However, if you have undergone a total hysterectomy for a noncancerous condition, further Pap test may be discontinued.
  • Vaginal vault smear: It is not recommended for routine screening. Vaginal vault smear is done in the following:
    • In patients who have undergone partial hysterectomy and having cervix (cervical stump)
    • In patients who have undergone total hysterectomy as part of treatment for endometrial, cervical, ovarian or vaginal cancers
    • In women whose Pap test was found to be abnormal
    • To test for vaginal cancers
  • If you are at high risk of cervical cancer, you may need screening very often.
  • Women with increased risk of cancer or infection like : if HIV POSITIVE,with weakened immune system from chemotherapy or an organ transplant , these women need more frequent screening.


Any precautions before Pap smear?

  • You should not be down with periods at the time of the test
  • Avoid sexual intercourse the day before the test
  • Avoid vaginal douching or application of spermicidal products the day before the test
  • Inform the doctor if you are pregnant or think you might be (due to missed period or decreased flow in cycle)


Any side effects of Pap smear procedure?

  • There may occur a small amount of bleeding, for which you can wear a sanitary pad
  • You may have slight pain, for which your doctor would prescribe appropriate medicine (painkiller) for a day or two.

Remember, Pap smear goes more smoothly if your body is relaxed, so it is important to stay calm and take deep breaths during the procedure.

How accurate are the results of Pap smear?

Pap tests are very accurate in timely predicting cervical cancer or precancerous state. Various studies have showed that regular Pap screenings reduce cervical cancer rates and mortality by upto 80%.

So, even if there may be a brief discomfort of Pap smear for some, it can help protect your health. Consult your gynaecologist today for further information and advice.

Happy women’s health…!