Cervical Screening

What is a cervical screening?

The cervical screening also called a Pap smear, checks for changes in the cells of your cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens into the vagina (birth canal). Cervical screening can tell if you have an infection, abnormal (unhealthy) cervical cells, or cervical cancer. During cervical screening, your doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix to be tested and examined. Cervical screening is safe with no known medical risks.

Why is Cervical Screening Performed?

Cervical screening can save your life. It can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer. If diagnosed early, the chance of curing cervical cancer is very high. Cervical screening can also find infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells. Treatment can prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.

Getting regular cervical screening is the best thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer. In fact, regular cervical screenings have led to a major decline in the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths.

Do all Women need to have Cervical Screening?

It is important for all women to have routine cervical screening, along with pelvic exams, as part of their routine health care.

You need to have cervical screening if you are:

  • 25 years or older

There is no age limit for the cervical screening. Even women who have gone through menopause need regular cervical screening. Women ages 65 to 70 can talk to their doctor about stopping after at least 3 normal cervical screening and no abnormal results in the last 10 years.

How to prepare for Cervical Screening?

Many things can cause wrong test results by washing away or hiding abnormal cells of the cervix.
So, doctors suggest that for 2 days before the test you avoid:

  • Douching
  • Using tampons
  • Using vaginal creams, suppositories, and medicines
  • Using vaginal deodorant sprays or powders
  • Having sex

Make sure to empty your bladder just before your exam for a more comfortable examination. Doctors suggest that you schedule cervical screening when you do not have your period. The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your last period.

How is Cervical Screening done?

Your doctor can do cervical screening during a pelvic exam. It is a simple and quick test. While you lie on an exam table, the doctor puts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, opening it to see the cervix.
The doctor performing the examination:

  • Looks for lumps, sores, inflammation, or other abnormalities of the external genitals.
  • Uses a small disposable swab, wooden spatula, brush, or soft-bristled "broom" to remove cells from the entrance to the canal that connects the cervix with the uterus.
  • Places the cell sample in a specimen pot, which is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.

While usually painless, cervical screening is uncomfortable for some women.

What do abnormal Cervical Screening Results Mean?

Abnormal cervical screening test results usually do not mean you have cancer. Most often there is a small problem with the cervix. Some abnormal cells will turn into cancer. But most of the time, these unhealthy cells will go away on their own. By treating these unhealthy cells, almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented. If you have abnormal results, then consult with your health care provider about what they mean.

Although every effort is made to educate you on cervical screening take control, there will be specific information that will not be discussed. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about any concerns you have about cervical screening.