Routine Care by Life Stage
At Women’s Health Connecticut, our dedicated physicians provide health care for women, through every age and every stage. Whether it’s your first visit or your 40th, an annual check up with your doctor is the single best thing a woman can do to protect her health. Depending on your age, this comprehensive examination may include:
Along with your annual visit, your doctor may recommend other standard health tests. See the section Routine Health Tests for Women by Age for a list of routine tests by age range.
Routine Pap test
The Pap test, also called cervical cytology, is a routine screening test for cervical cancer. This is a test that checks for abnormal changes in the cells of your cervix. It is very useful in detecting cervical cancer in the early stages, before it spreads to other parts of the body. This test has made it possible to detect pre-cancerous conditions also.
A Pap test only takes a few moments and is a part of a routine pelvic examination. It involves sampling or scraping a small number of cells from the cervix with a brush and looking at them under a microscope.
The best position for this examination is lying on your back, with your knees bent and feet apart – this is called the lithotomy position. A speculum is inserted into the vagina, to push away the vaginal walls and make visualization of the cervix possible. A special swab or brush is used to wipe off cells from inside the opening of the cervix (endocervix) and from the outer part of the cervix. The brush or swab may be placed into a liquid solution which allows the cervical cells to be rinsed from the brush into the sample for analysis or a traditional method of smearing the cells on a microscope slide may be used.
Pap test results
If the cells appear normal, no treatment is necessary. When an infection is present, medication will likely be prescribed — and sometimes the Pap test is repeated at a later date. If the cells appear abnormal, more tests may be necessary. A Pap test is not 100% accurate, so it is always important to talk to your clinician about your results.
Occasionally, there are false readings. A false positive is a Pap test that indicates abnormal tissue when the cells are normal. A false negative indicates normal cell growth but abnormal cells are actually present.
False-negative tests can occur for several reasons. The abnormal cells may not have been contained in the sample. There may have been too many or too few cells to allow an accurate reading. An infection could also cover up abnormal cells. If a Pap test is performed on a regular basis, the chances of a problem going undetected are considerably lower.
Click here for more information on abnormal Pap smear.
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