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Necessary information about the Papanicolau

The information that you need to know about the papanicolau test you will find here. Know the motives for doing the papanicolau test and the medical aims it has. Inform yourself in order to prevent unnecessary risks.

The papanicolau is also known as the vaginal smear test. Through doing this test the doctor can observe the cells in the cervix and see if there are any problems such as any inflammation, infection, abnormal cells, cancer, etc. Some abnormal cells can turn into cervical cancer or uterine cancer.

Cervical cancer or also known as uterine- womb cancer is the most common among women.

From our website we recommend to all women that they do the papanicolau test as soon as they start having sexual relations or when they turn 18 years of age, all women that are sexually active should do the pap stain. It is important to do the pap test as part of your health care routine.

Papanicolau: how the test is done

To do the Papanicolau the doctor is going to ask the woman that she lies down on the special auscultation table without without her underwear, separate the legs well and support each one on each stirrup on the table, the doctor with cover the lower part of your body with a sheet.

Following this they will introduce a speculum into the vagina which helps to separate the walls of the vagina, this way the doctor can do a revision of the cervix and collect a sample of the cells on the interior and around the cervix with a wooden swab which is covered with cotton on one end, the sample is put on a small sheet of glass which is sent to a laboratory so that it can be evaluated under a microscope.

The results can be normal or abnormal, but it is important to know that the abnormal cells become cancer only on a number of occasions.

When the cells are abnormal, the doctor can decide to do another papanicolau or do a colposcopy where they will be able to see the cervix better and they will be able to take some tissue to do a biopsy, this is the only way of knowing with great certainty if the abnormal cells that have been found indicate a cancer.

The term dysplasia is used to describe the cells which are abnormal, if you have dysplasia it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have cancer, although it can convert into a cancer of the cervix in its earliest stage.

There are three grades of dysplasia:

          - Mild dysplasia LSIL low grade or  CIN 1.

          - Moderate dysplasia HSIL high grade or CIN 2.

          - Severe dysplasia ASC high grade or CIN 3.

There are different categories according to the anomaly of the squamous cells:

Atypical squamous cells 

This is the most common result of the papanicolau, it is divided into two categories:

- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US): changes in the cells have been produced and the doctor is not sure of its significance.

- Atypical squamous cells with possible intraepithelial squamous damage of high grade (ASC-H): in this case there is a greater risk that the damage of the cells can be precancerous in comparison with the previous lesion (ASC-US)

Intraepithelial squamous damage of low grade (LSIL)

This damage means that early changes have been produced in the form of size of the cells, this damage is usually associated with the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV), at times this lesion is classified as mild dysplasia.

Intraepithelial squamous damage of high grade

This damage can become cancer if it is not treated. The changes which are produced in the cells are very noticeable. It is classified as moderate to severe dysplasia.

Squarmous cell carcinoma

This is uterine or cervical cancer, the squamous cells have invaded the cérvix profundly.

The papanicolau can also show that an inflammation of the cells exists, this can also happen as a consequence of an infection.

Dry epithelial cells can also be found through the papanicolau as a consequence of an infection in the cervix, the use of the diphragm or the cervical cap.