When taking a traditional Pap smear, a gynaecologist or physician usually requests that you lay down comfortably. It can be considered an invasive or uncomfortable procedure. A device called a speculum is then used to open the vaginal canal for the collection of cervical cells. If requested, a pelvic examination can be done too. Once collected, the cervical cells are then analysed by a clinical pathologist under a microscope at a laboratory; this is known as cytologic evaluation.
Although the Pap smear has saved many women’s' lives, technologies in the laboratories have advanced significantly. The traditional Pap smear only offers 53 percent specificity in the detection of high-risk strains of the common human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.
In general, in countries where Pap smear screening is still routine, it is recommended that women who are sexually active test every one to three years. Guidelines on frequency vary from every one to three to five years. If results are abnormal, and depending on the nature of the abnormality, the test may need to be repeated within six months.
An HPV test, whether self-administered such as those offered by UDoTest or physician-collected, does not involve the use of a speculum. It is an effective cervical cancer screening test and some countries have approved it as a primary screen before the Pap smear. The HPV test offers 85 to 95 percent specificity in detecting HPV. After cell collection, the test sample still needs to be analysed in a laboratory, however, it is analysed in very specialised, new, automated molecular equipment. An HPV test is suitable for women over the age of 25 and it only needs to be done every two, five or ten years, depending on your age and risk profile.
Cervical cancer in its precancerous stage, which can be detected by a home HPV test or Pap smear, is 100 percent treatable. In fact, most women diagnosed with cervical cancer today have either not undergone regular screening, or have not followed up on abnormal results.
Often,during the early stages, people experience no symptoms at all. This is why it is critical that women have regular screening for HPV and cervical cancer through easy to use home tests, such as the UDoHPVTest, as a convenient cervical cancer screening alternative.