BENGALURU: A crucial tool for screening cervical cancer, inflammation, and infection, pap smears are regular tests women undertake to keep a check on their health.
However, the pandemic has resulted in this aspect being ignored owing to lockdown, travel restrictions, and general hesitancy surrounding Covid-19.
At Motherhood Hospitals, doctors have witnessed a 50% drop in women turning up for pap smears.
“Pap smears detect inflammation, early signs of cervical cancer, wherein the test tells us if the cells are abnormal. It will also help us understand what the next course of treatment should be. This cancer can be caught early and treated this way. Even simple infections involving yeast or bacilli can be found through the test,” said Dr Suhasini Inamdar, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals.
If this trend continues, in coming times we will only see late diagnosis of gynecological issues.
The consequence of late detection and treatment of cervical cancer can result in the removal of uterus, ovaries, tubes, cervix, and lymph nodes.
Early treatment, however, will lead to the patient undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and removal of only the part of the cervix that is affected, making the overall disease easier to deal with.
Now, that Covid-19 cases have dipped, women should resume their pap smear tests, Dr Inamdar advised.
She said it is necessary for those who are below the age of 40 and sexually active to take the test once every two years.
Along with people voluntarily coming forward for the test, doctors also use this as an opportunistic screening tool in their patients, said Dr Lavanya Kiran, Senior Consultant- OBG, Fertility Specialist, Robotic Surgeon, IVF Unit in-charge, Narayana Health City.
This means that the option would be advised to those coming in for other reasons such as pre-conception or post-delivery appointments, white discharge, contraception, irregular cycles, etc.
“Earlier, 20-25 women would undertake pap smear test in a month This has now come down to 10-15, which are cases of opportunistic screening. Those coming forward for the test on their own has dropped to less than five. It helps detects cervical cancer, 5 to 10 years earlier. We recommend those who are sexually active to go for it... once in three years,” said Dr Kiran.
The procedure takes 2-3 minutes, where a speculum is used to take cells of the cervix out as samples, to be sent for screening.