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Updated April 16, 2007

WHY ARE THEY NECCESSARY?

Papsmears are one of the most important examinations that a woman should have on a regularly basis. It is a test that can prevent invasive cancer of the mouth of the womb. Unfortunately, like most medical tests, 100% accuracy can not be claimed but if a woman present herself regularly for testing ( preferibly anually) the likelyhood of her develping invasive cancer of the womb is very slight. It is a life saving procedure!

    Another important point is that there are different types of womb cancer :
  1. Cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer), mouth of the womb. The scientific name is cervical carcinoma.
  2. Cancer of the body of the womb (corpus cancer, endometrial cancer). The scientific name is endometrial carcinoma.
  3. Rare types for example muscle cancers known scientificaly as sarcomas.
It is important to understand that the papsmeer is only reliable in the diagnosis of cancer of the mouth of the womb, but the latter is the most common type of womb cancer.

Why Does A Papsmear Help to Prevent Cancer?
Cancer does not start overnight. There is gradual change in the tissue until it eventually becomes cancer.

The basic building blocks of our bodies are cells. They come in different forms and shapes. Think of them as bricks, tiles etc. used in the construction of buildings but with a major difference. Cells are alive and can replaced damaged and dying cells. Some cells are constantly deviding to form new cells to replace the older cells. This process of deviding is usually well controlled and only enough new cells are produced to replace the old ones. This process is normally well controlled and only enough to replace the old ones are produced. The is normally a balance between old dying cell and new cells.

In invasive cancer however certain cells start deviding at a fast and uncontrolled rate. It produces new completely abnormal tissue . This new tissue invades and destroy the surrounding normal tissue.

As stated before the cells that will became cancerous do not change overnight. There is a gradually change in the effected cells until they eventually became cancerous. It is posible to diagnose these abnormalities early (before they cause cancer) in some parts of the body. One place where it is posible, is at the mouth of the womb (cervix) . The cervix is a very common place for these abnormalities to develope.

Papsmears are done to diagnosed these changes before cancer develops.

When doing a papsmear cells are scraped from the surface of the mouth of the womb and put on a glass slide. The cells is than send to laboratory to be examined.The presence of precancerous (before cancer) changes can than be diagnosed. Appropriate measures can than be taken to prevent the developepment of cancer if such abnormal cells are diagnosed.

We advise that a papsmear should be taken every twelve months. Where medical insurers or state sponsored organations are involved they usually advise a papsmear once every 36 months. This is due to limited buggets.

Our viewpoint is that every one is responsible for their own health. It is your duty to get the best basic care you can affort. You have only one life . If you can affort it , pay for your yearly examinations. By proper planning more people should be able to affort better medical care. (Refer to "Who is responsible for your health?"

A Graphic Presentation of the Basic Elements of Papsmears

The drawing above illustrates the superficial cells scraped from the cervix during a papsmear. The cells are flat with a very small nucleus. This represent a normal papsmeer.

This illustrates the superficial cells scraped from the cervix during a papsmear. There is abnormal cells with large nuclei and this should be investigate futher.

It is very important to remember the following statement: If abnormal cells were discovered in your papsmeer , it doesn't mean you have invasive cancer. It only means that there is an abnormality present that might later develop into invasive cancer. Your doctor will investigate or refer you for further investigations.

More information about abnormal pap smears available here

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Abnormal Pap Smears: What Every Women Needs to Know

The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything: Advice on Absolutely Everything

Women's Cancers: How to Prevent Them, How to Treat Them, How to Beat Them