5 Questions About the Pap Smear and Which Diseases the Test Detects

Taking care of intimate health is essential to prevent diseases that can cause complications for women. The Pap smear, also known as a preventive exam, detects changes that can be treated.

5 Questions About the Pap Smear and Which Diseases the Test Detects
5 Questions About the Pap Smear and Which Diseases the Test Detects

What is a Pap smear, and what is it used for?

According to the gynecologist, “the Pap smear, also called cervicovaginal smear and oncotic coloproctology was named in honor of the Greek pathologist Georges Papanicolaou, who created the method at the beginning of the 21st century. The exam is also popularly known as preventive and, according to the professional, “is done to detect changes in the cells of the cervix.”

What diseases can the test detect?

  • Cervical cancer precursor lesions, mainly caused by HPV infection ;
  • Changes in the constitution of the vaginal flora: lack of lactobacillus, which are the defense cells of the vagina, infections by fungi and bacteria;
  • Change in the hormonal pattern of this region.

The gynecologist clarified that the preventive examination, in addition to detecting lesions and the changes mentioned above, can also indicate some other infection that needs to be treated”. Therefore, be sure to perform the exam and correctly follow the treatment indicated by the doctor.

How to prepare for the Pap smear

Dr. Regina informed that in the two days prior to the examination, the woman “cannot have sex even with a condom, also in the previous 48 hours, it is not recommended to use douches, vaginal ointments, and local contraceptives”. In addition, the specialist cited the importance of the woman not being in the menstrual period so as not to change the result.

How the exam is done

According to information from the gynecologist, the collection of the exam is very fast and doesn’t even take 5 minutes. To do this, an instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina. This instrument is popularly known as the duckbill because of its shape.

“The doctor does a visual inspection of the inside of the vagina and cervix. Then, the professional makes a small scale of the external and internal surface of the cervix with a wooden spatula and a brush. After that, the harvested cells are placed on a slide or in an appropriate liquid for analysis in a laboratory specializing in cytopathology”, explained the doctor.

According to Dr. Regina, “the exam does not usually have a high price,” and it depends on where it is performed, but it costs around R$ 60.00. However, the doctor said that the Pap smear “is collected free of charge by the Public Health Network.”

How does the exam result work?

The doctor explained that the test result is ready in around a week, and the interpretation is made as follows: “if the first result is negative for cancer, a new preventive test should only be carried out in a year”. Now, “if there is a negative result in the previous year, a new test should only be carried out in three years.”

In cases where “HPV infection or low-grade lesion is found, it will be necessary to repeat the exam in six months.” In addition, Dr. Regina said that when the result is a high-grade injury, the doctor will decide the conduct. “However, it is usually necessary to perform other complementary tests, such as colposcopy.”

Still, there are cases in which the sample is unsatisfactory, that is, “the amount of material was not adequate to perform the exam, therefore, it should be repeated as soon as possible”, he concluded.

More questions about the Pap smear answered by the doctor

Is the exam painful? Because?Regina Amarante (RA): some women may experience pain during the exam due to discomfort at the time of introduction of the vaginal speculum.

When should the preventive exam be done?

RA: every woman who has or has had a sexual life must undergo a periodic preventive examination, especially those between 25 and 59 years old. Initially, the exam should be done annually. After two consecutive exams (with an interval of one year), with normal results, the prevention can be done every three years.

Can Pap smears be performed during pregnancy?

RA: Pregnant women can also undergo the test without harm to their health or that of the baby.

Is it necessary to perform the test after menopause?

RA: yes, the exam is recommended for up to 65 years old. After that age, only sexually active women should do so.

Can virgin women have a Pap smear?

RA: Virgin women do not need to undergo this test, as the objective is to prevent cervical cancer, almost always caused by HPV. For this, it is necessary to collect the material from that region to carry out it.

As seen, the Pap smear is a preventive exam and must be performed according to the gynecologist’s indications. So be sure to do it and keep your intimate health up to date. Enjoy and learn more about vulvovaginitis – a disease that affects the female lower genital tract.

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. They do not replace the advice and follow-up of doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, physical education professionals, and other specialists.