What Does a Pap Smear Test For?

A Pap smear test is an annual exam performed by a skilled gynecologist that checks the health of your vagina and cervix. A small sample of cells is swabbed from the cervix and then analyzed for abnormalities, precancerous cells and cervical cancer.

What does a Pap smear test?

Though the primary reason for Pap smears is to test for cervical cancer, it is often not the reason a woman might receive an abnormal Pap test result. It is much more likely that a vaginal or cervical infection is causing changes in the cells of your cervix, which will often resolve on their own without medical intervention.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when cells in the lining of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) begin to grow out of control. Cervical cancer usually occurs where the upper and lower parts of the uterus meet, known as the transformation zone. This zone is where two different types of cells (glandular and squamous) meet, and is the most likely location for abnormal or precancerous cells to develop.

How does cervical cancer occur?

Causes and risk factors of cervical cancer include:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection (HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer, may also cause cervical dysplasia and abnormal growth of cervical cells)
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Smoking
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Engaging in early sexual contact

What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?

Early detection of HPV and/or precancerous cells through an annual Pap smear test is essential for stopping the disease before it turns into cervical cancer. Here are common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer:

  • Abnormal bleeding (e.g., post intercourse, between menstrual periods, after a pelvic exam or post-menopause)
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful urination

If you’re looking for a skilled gynecologist in Mobile, Alabama, call Bay Area Physicians for Women at 251-344-5900. Our board-certified physicians are experienced in the treatment of all women’s health issues, including the Pap smear test.