Cancer - Cervical Smears - Women's Health
By Fritz Frei
All women at some point in their life will have to have a cervical smear as a part of a health checkup. But do you know exactly what a cervical smear is, and how it can affect, diagnose or treat women's ailments? Read on for more information about this common procedure.
Women's Health: What is a Cervical Smear?
A cervical smear is a test used on women to tell if there are any changes in the health of the cervix. This is helpful to diagnose the early stages of cancer.
The cervix is located at the end of the uterus, and connects to the top of the vagina. There is a central canal that connects the vagina to the inside of the uterus, and it measures approximately 3cm square.
Women's Health: Why Have a Cervical Smear?
The main reason to have a cervical smear is to monitor the health of the cervix, and to lower the number of women who contract cervical cancer. The smear is targeted to detect early strains of potentially cancerous cells. If caught in time, women's health may not suffer terribly, and the growth of the cancer may not progress further. However, a cervical smear is just a screening process; it won't detect all forms of cancer, all of the time.
Women's Health: Who Needs a Cervical Smear?
Women who are sexually active, or who are 18 or older (whatever comes first) should take their health in their own hands and have regular cervical smears until the age of 70. A regular smear would be every three years for most women, depending on their health and the results of the last smear. Also, women who are not healthy should have annual smears, such as those with HIV. Women who have had a hysterectomy who have had abnormal pap smears in the past should get themselves checked every year by a health practitioner; there is still a risk of abnormal cell growth at the top of the vaginal canal.
Women's Health: How is a Cervical Smear Done?
A cervical smear is only taken when women are in good health, and are not bleeding. Any blood that appears during the testing can skew the results unnecessarily.
The procedure is performed with women on their backs, and their legs held up in the air by a health practitioner or stirrups. A speculum is placed inside the vagina, so that the health practitioner can view women's cervix closely. Then a brush-like instrument is placed over the cervix, and cells are wiped onto the brush, and then placed onto a glass slide for diagnosis.
Women's cervical smears can be done by a health practitioner, such as a doctor or nurse. The procedure usually only takes a couple of minutes, at the most, and isn't painful, although it may be a bit uncomfortable.
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