A Pap smear screens for cervical cancer. Your doctor at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine uses a scraper or brush to take tissue from your cervix, then it’s sent to a laboratory where trained technicians check for precancerous or cancerous cellular changes.
When you follow the recommended schedule and consistently have Pap smears over the years, precancerous changes can be identified early and treated before they grow into cancer. It’s important to follow this schedule to be sure you catch cervical cancer at the earliest possible stage: (see Ref 1, para 2)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer. The type of HPV that develops into cancer is transmitted during sexual intercourse with someone who’s infected with HPV.
You can get the HPV virus and not develop health problems, because your immune system stops the virus. When the virus manages to invade healthy cells in the cervix, it makes them grow too quickly, gradually changing into precancerous cells then progressing to become cervical cancer.
At the early stage, you won’t have symptoms. As cancer affects surrounding tissues and begins to spread you may experience:
The cervical cells on the Pap smear are graded based on the changes in their size and shape. Their grade determines the next step. You may be able to wait for a period of time then return for a repeat screening, or you may need to have an HPV test to screen for the types of HPV known to cause cancer.
When the test results are cause for concern, you’ll need to have a colposcopy. A colposcope is a special instrument used to give your doctor a close view of tissues in your vagina and cervix and to perform a biopsy to verify your diagnosis.
When a tissue biopsy verifies abnormal cervical cells, one of the following procedures may be done:
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