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"Do PAP smears detect cervical cancer?"
I'm 28 and have the symptoms of cervical cancer. Will my Pap smear tell me if everything is OK?
A Pap smear is a widely used screening test for the detection of cervical cancer and for changes in cells that are concerning for the eventual development of cervical cancer. The Pap smear consists of a collection of cells from the cervix, with the use of a special brush and/or spatula. The cells are then examined under a microscope by a pathologist. If any of the cells appear to be cancerous, then further testing by a gynecologist can be performed. This may include a colposcopy and a biopsy of any abnormal areas that are seen. If any abnormal, non-cancerous cells are seen on the Pap smear, then further testing may include looking for the presence of high-risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a virus fundamental to the development of cervical cancer. If high-risk HPV is found, then further testing with colposcopy and possible biopsy will be performed. If no high-risk HPV is found, then the Pap smear will likely need to be repeated in a year. You should talk to your primary care physician or gynecologist about the symptoms that you are experiencing, your concern for your health, and the need for evaluation with Pap smear as part of the age-recommended cervical cancer screening.
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