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A Papanicolaou smear (Pap smear) is a microscopic examination of cells taken from the cervix, that is used to detect cancerous or precancerous condition.
How should you prepare for a Pap test?
Many things can cause inaccurate test results by washing away or hiding abnormal cells. For two days before the test you avoid:
- Using tampons
- Using vaginal creams, suppositories, and medicines
- Using vaginal deodorant sprays or powders
- Having intercourse
Depending on the result, specific follow-up will be recommended by your health care provider. This can be anything from simple treatment of a mild infection to a detailed examination using a colposcopy.
Think of cervical cancer as a slow progression from totally normal to abnormal and eventually malignant and cancerous. Our goal is finding an abnormality on the â€œnormal endâ€ of the time line, so we can prevent it from progressing further.
"The Time Line"
NORMAL ~> BENIGN CHANGES ~> ASCUS ~> LGSIL ~> HGSIL ~> CERVICAL CANCER
- Benign Changes: include inflammation, mild infection, age-related atrophy, IUDs.
- ASCUS: (Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance). This is a broad category indicating a mild abnormality.
- LSIL: (low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion) early changes in the cells often associated with the presence of HPV(human papillomavirus).
- HSIL: (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion) cells are very different from normal cells. These cells are usually precancerous and are more likely to lead to cervical cancer.
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is a procedure that allows your provider to closely examine abnormal cells on your cervix. Your provider will coat your cervix with a solution that causes any abnormal areas to turn white. Then they will examine these areas using a colposcope, an instrument like a microscope. A small piece of tissue may be removed for study in a laboratory. This is called a biopsy.
Normally this is done by your PCM, but can be performed by the WHC, by having your PCM place a consult request (referral) to the WHC.
page last modified on: 5/7/2013