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Having regular pap smear tests is essential to maintaining good health. A pap smear test is very simple to do, is relatively quick and should not be painful or too uncomfortable.

The health professional will insert a speculum (a small instrument that opens the vaginal walls) into your vagina and gently take a sample of the cell lining your cervix (the lower or neck part of your uterus).

These cells will then be sent for analysis. In most instances, it will come back as normal. However, it is a screening test and a small percentage of women will have to go for a further test which is called a colposcopy.

COLPOSCOPY

This is when the cervix is viewed with a microscope or a colposcope. Prior to the treatment, your specialist will sit down with you, explain the reason why you are having the procedure done and explain in detail how it will be performed.

You will then be asked to empty your bladder and to get changed. You’ll place your legs in the stirrups and a small speculum will be inserted which allows the specialist to easily view the cervix area.

The specialist will then paint or spray your cervix with a 3% or 5% solution of acetic acid (vinegar). They may also apply an iodine solution called lugol’s iodine. He/she will then look very carefully at the entire area of the cervix and try and find the abnormal areas. Once these have been located a biopsy will be taken. This is a  very tiny sample of the abnormal area. The biopsy should not hurt but may be felt as a pin prick. There is usually some bleeding associated which is easily stopped.

A tampon will be inserted and it’s advisable to keep that in for a few hours.

A follow-up appointment will be made to discuss the results and any proposed treatment.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

If the results come back as a low-grade change then you will probably not require any treatment. However, regular follow up checks will be made to ensure there are no further changes.

If the results come back as a high-grade change then you will need the area to be removed with either a laser, a large electrical loop or with a cold knife. The method of removal will depend on what type of change there is and the extent of the change.

Most lesions can be removed with a Lletz loop (large loop removal) which is a relatively simple procedure and can be done under local or general anesthetic.

A follow up in 6 months will be required.

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