A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, is an investigation performed to detect precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix. These types of cells are termed abnormal, and if left untreated, could develop into severe health problems, such as cervical cancer. Early detection and treatment of the cells can help reduce their number, combat the condition, or prevent its occurrence. You may hear your doctor call the test a Papanicolaou test, pap test or smear test; they all mean the same thing. A pap smear test should not be mistaken for a cancer test; it just detects abnormal cells that may develop into cancer cells. At Medical Express Clinic, we offer Pap Test or smear test privately in London with one our consultant gynaecologist to obtain the most accurate results.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that typically affects cells in the cervix of sexually active women between the ages of 25 and 49. The cervix is the neck of the womb; it connects the uterus to the vagina and opens up during labour to allow passage of the baby. The cervix is lined by a membrane and - it is the cells in this membrane which can develop into precancerous cells. When left untreated, it is these cells that develop into cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can occur from exposure to a sexually transmitted infection known as human papillomavirus (HPV), especially when the woman has not been vaccinated against the virus. It is one of the most common types of gynaecological cancers. In the United Kingdom, girls are vaccinated against HPV routinely as part of a national health initiative.
According to the World Health Organisation, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. It is estimated to represent about 6.6% of all female cancers as of 2018. Recent studies have shown that about 75% of women diagnosed with the condition survive it, and there is a survival rate of 85% for women under 40.
Women ages 25 to 64 should have a Pap smear test every 3 to 5 years. Also, cervical cancer can develop in women of all ages, especially those who are sexually active. For women over 50, the test can be done once every five years. Usually, your GP will invite you to have a Pap smear test when you are due or you can have a private smear test at our clinic. Even if you are no longer sexually active, you should still get regular Pap tests.
For women below 25 years, regular cervical screening is not necessary because it is common for abnormal cells to develop in the cervix, but they go away by themselves. If the cells are treated in this group of women, it could cause complications in the future.
As a virgin, the risk of getting cervical cancer is very low, so it may not be necessary to get a smear test.
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Having a pap smear test is very important. If you have decided or are yet to decide to get one done, it is important to know and understand the benefits and risks involved to help you make an informed decision.
If you want to book an appointment to get your private smear test done, it is best to choose a day when you are not on your period, preferably halfway through your cycle. Menstrual blood can make degrade the sample quality and affect your results. If you are on any contraceptives, it is best to abstain from sex for 24 hours prior to your test because chemicals in spermicide, lubricating gels, and condoms can interfere with the test results.
A smear test is simply a procedure that is used to examine how healthy a woman’s cervix is. It involves a collection of cells from the cervix for close examination. The procedure is painless, so you should not be scared. The pap smear process takes about 10 – 20 minutes, but the actual test takes about 2 to 3 minutes. During Pap test (or Pap smear), you will be asked to lie on your back on a couch with your legs bent and apart. The doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into your vagina; the speculum will be widened, so the doctor can see your cervix and a small soft brush is used to collect cells from the cervix. Your doctor will put the cells in a small jar that contains a liquid sample before sending it to the laboratory for closer examination.
After the PAP test, you can go on with your normal activities. It’s normal if you notice light bleeding afterwards. You should see your GP if you have heavy bleeding or severe pains afterwards.
The test results are usually ready in two weeks, but your nurse will notify you to know when you will get it. Your result will be sent to the clinic, reviewed by the clinic doctor and disemminated to you by your chosen means. If you do not get the results after 2 weeks, you should contact your clinic or GP.
If your result is normal, you will be invited after 3 to five years for a routine screening depending on your age.
A result may be ‘unsatisfactory ‘or ‘inadequate’ - this means that the cells in the sample taken were insufficient or the sample was not clear enough to get a definite result. If this is the case with your results, you will be asked to repeat the test after three months.
Getting a result that shows you have abnormal cells does not mean that you have cancer. It just means your cervical cells are abnormal. What happens in your cervix with time depends on how abnormal the cells are or the level of change in the cell.
A result with benign or borderline changes usually doesn’t develop to become cancer. Most times, they return to normal on their own without treatment, but you will need to be checked frequently to make sure that cells are normal again. Your sample will still be checked for high-risk HPV. One of two things will happen when you get tested for high-risk HPV.
This result does not mean you have cancer. It only means that the abnormal cells are less likely to return to normal cells on their own, so treatment is usually needed.
If you are pregnant, it is advisable to postpone any routine screening until you have given birth, especially if your previous pap tests showed no abnormal cells. If you had an abnormal cell during your previous screening, your nurse, midwife, or GP may ask you to have some more tests done like colposcopy at about 3 - 6 weeks into your pregnancy or wait until you deliver your baby depending on your condition.
At our private clinic, we provide multiple services that includes women’s health along with HPV screenings and smear tests. We know you might feel uncomfortable when performing a smear test, particularly when it is your first screening. Our doctors and nurses at the clinic are always willing to help you feel comfortable throughout the entire procedure. You will get the results within 2 to 3 days.
HPV primary screening is a new addition to the regular cervical screening process. The nurse or GP will first take samples from your cervix, but instead of examining it as usual for any change, it will be tested for specific types of high-risk HPV.
HPV is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. If you are not infected with HPV, it is unlikely that you will develop cancer of the cervix. If HPV is detected after an HPV primary screening, the cells will be observed under a microscope to check if there are abnormal changes.
If you have HPV and your cells are normal, your GP will invite you to the clinic to check if the infection has cleared up. In most people with strong immune systems, the infection gets cleared on its own, but if the infection persists, your chances of developing cancer is greatly increased. This means that you will be called back to the hospital within a year to repeat the test.
If your results show that you have both abnormal cell and HPV in your cervix, it does not mean you have cancer of the cervix. You will be referred to get a colposcopy done to further examine the cervix. Different types of changes can be found, and each of them has specific treatments.
The smear test is used to detect cell changes in your cervix and not to detect infection, but if you have an infection, it may be seen during the test and reported to you. Infections that may be detected by a smear test include Trichomonas, herpes simplex 2, and Candida. Your GP would give you treatment for these infections.
Sure, you do. Whether you are having sex at the moment or not, it is crucial to have your routine pap smear tests.
Pap smear tests check for changes in your cervical cells that may develop into cervical cancer if left untreated. The cell changes usually develop after a person gets infected by HPV. HPV infections are very common and are sexually transmitted. Most women get infected at one point in their lives but are lucky enough to have a strong immune system to fight off the infection.
If you have had sex in the past and not presently sexually active, you should still get a pap smear test done because you may have been exposed to the virus from your previous partners. The virus may be dormant for a while before causing any harm.
If you are a virgin, it is unlikely for you to develop cervical cancer, but you can have a regular pap smear test if you desire. You need to report any unusual discharge or bleeding to your GP.
It is also essential to get regular smear tests even if you have sex with women because the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact between men and women.
Different treatments are available for the treatment of abnormal cervical cells. These treatments either destroy the cells or completely remove the affected areas of the cervix.
If the abnormal cells are either moderate or severe, a colposcopy will be done. If the GP finds the affected area in the cervix, they will take a biopsy of that area. A biopsy involves sending a small sample to the lab for further testing.
The result gotten will determine which of the treatment options to use. The common treatment is a large loop excision of the transmission zone (LLETZ) also called loop diathermy. This procedure involves the doctor using a wire loop with an electric current to remove the abnormal areas in the cervix. The treatment is done under local anaesthesia so you will be conscious during the procedure.
Other treatments available for the destruction of the abnormal cells include cold coagulation, cryotherapy, and freezing. Your GP or nurse will give you more information on all these procedures.
A: Women between 25 – 64 years are currently invited by the NHS to get pap smear tests. The invitation s sent every 3 years for women between the ages of 25 – 49 and every 5 years to women between 50 – 60 years.
The reason for limiting screening of upper age women is that pap smear tests are not effective in detecting abnormal cells later in life. After 65 years, it is less likely to have abnormal cells that can develop into cervical cancer.
If you are not in the recommended age limits for getting a pap smear test and you experience abnormal signs like pain, discharge or bleeding you should contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
Recent research on the best screening age for cancer of the cervix suggests that the benefits of screening women under 25 years are minimal when compared to the dangers. Screening does not reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in women below 25 years. Changes in the cervix for women under 25 years of age usually go on their own so it is wise not to get the screening done. When these changes are picked during a smear test, it could lead to unnecessary treatment that may be harmful in the future. The risk associated with the treatment of abnormal cells in underage girls includes
The cost of a smear test is £225 no matter by whom it is performed. At our clinic, Smear Test or PAP Test is typically performed by our highly experienced GPs. If you are attending for a Gynaecological consultation, then your consultant Gynaecologist will perform the smear test.
The cost of a HPV test is £115. Cervical smear tests are carried out to detect abnormal cells in the cervix. Typically, these cells are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), for which you can be tested at Medical Express Clinic. Your doctor, as above, either GP or Gynaecologist, can perform the test by a simple swab.