It may not be something you’ll ever look forward to, but a routine Pap smear can identify abnormal cervical cells before they become cancer – when treatment is simplest and most successful. Dr. Mohannad Alshalabi is an OB/GYN physician, located at Shelby Women Health in Greenbelt, Maryland, who combines medical expertise with a compassionate nature that helps ease your discomfort regarding this valuable screening test. Call the office today or schedule your exam via their convenient online service.
The Pap smear is named after Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou, the physician who recommended it as a way to detect signs of cervical cancer. The test uses a small sampling of tissue taken from the cervix (the opening to the uterus) during a pelvic examination. Careful analysis in a lab determines if abnormal cellular changes are present in the sample, which might indicate cancer or precancerous changes.
It’s recommended that you have your first Pap smear by age 21 or when you become sexually active, whichever comes first. After your initial test, several factors can influence how often Dr. Alshalabi recommends repeat studies, such as a history of an abnormal Pap smear or a weakened immune system that can affect your cancer risk.
Done during an annual OB-GYN exam, the Pap smear takes just a few minutes to complete. Dr. Alshalabi inserts a device called a speculum into your vagina that helps him see the cervix. The sample cells needed for testing are taken by swabbing or brushing the surface of your cervix. These cells are then sent to a lab for analysis that may take several days to a week to complete. Other than a mild pressure sensation, it’s a painless procedure.
An abnormal Pap smear does not mean you have cancer. The study could indicate Inflammation or minor cell changes (dysplasia) which warrant a repeat Pap smear in a few months. If those abnormal cells don’t clear, Dr. Alshalabi may recommend further investigation with colposcopy or other diagnostic studies.
A colposcopy involves the use of a colposcope to visualize your cervix. This is a specially designed tool with a bright light and lens that enables Dr. Alshalabi to visualize your cervix in more detail. If he notes any areas of concern, he may take a small sampling of tissue for a biopsy that helps further determine what’s causing the abnormality. The results of the biopsy, as well as the appearance of your cervix during this exam, determines the next step in your treatment course.