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Pap smear: what it is, what to do and how to prepare for the exam

Pap smear: what it is, what to do and how to prepare for the exam

The pap smear, or Oncology Colpocitology, examines the cells of the cervix to identify vaginal infections, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and especially some early signs of cervical cancer , the third most frequent tumor in the female population, according to the National Cancer Institute (Inca). The examination is powerful and at the same time simple - it consists of collecting material from the cervix with a "scraping spoon". According to a study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the survival rate of women with cervical cancer detected by the examination reaches 92%, while those diagnosed only by symptoms have a survival rate of 66%.

In the 1980s, it was discovered that HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is responsible for cervical cancer. Its transmission is almost exclusively through sexual contact and penetrates into the micro-lions of the skin and mucous membranes. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease. There are more than 150 types of these viruses in humans, also responsible for genital warts. About 80% of the population present the transient infection and can eliminate the virus; 20% have persistent infection and it is the women that we must follow more closely. The group of these viruses that has characteristics of persistent infection is called a high risk, and types 16 and 18 account for 70% of cervical cancers.

HPVs are very common and highly transmissible . When women who initiate sexual life become easily infected, and over time, a large number of them are eliminated spontaneously. Cervical cancer most often occurs over 30 years, and 80% of patients with transient infection have already eliminated the virus from this age group. Therefore, above this age, we should associate more sensitive HPV screening tests to the Pap smear, so screening is more effective. Existing HPV vaccines, and new ones at the end of the research, will revolutionize this area and minimize the suffering of future generations.


Oncology, Papanicolaou


How this type of cancer does not develop rapidly, it is recommended that the Pap smear be done by women from the age of 21, except those who have not had sex until the age of 64, even in those who have no active sex life. Your doctor may change this period and frequency if necessary.


There are no contraindications to the Pap test. However, your doctor will decide whether or not you should take the test.

Pregnant can do?

The Pap smear can be done during gestation and should be included in the prenatal checklist

How it is done

The collection is simple: during the gynecological examination, the doctor collects the cells of the cervix with a spatula and brush. These cells can be spread directly onto glass slides or collected in liquid media. Adequate preparation of the exam consists of avoiding sexual intercourse, creams, showers, and non-marathons.

Preparation for the examination

menstruation at least two days prior to collection. For collection on a liquid basis, this accuracy is not necessary, as the cells are washed.

Examination time

The Pap test lasts for a few minutes and is performed by a health care professional experienced in the procedure.

Frequency of examination

The Pap test should be done annually. After two consecutive normal exams, we can do it every three years, as defined by the World Health Organization, associated or not with HPV testing.


Changed exams should be viewed by experienced professionals once that the behaviors and treatments are different, according to each case and period of life. To enlarge these assessments, we can use complementary tests such as HPV screening tests, colposcopy, and biopsies.

The Pap test helps diagnose:

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