Few women get pap tests
PANAMA. Only 30 per cent of women in Panama go for pap tests and, according to Dr Darcy Smith from the Health Ministry in San Miguelito...
PANAMA. Only 30 per cent of women in Panama go for pap tests and, according to Dr Darcy Smith from the Health Ministry in San Miguelito, this is bad news. Data from the Ministry reveals that cervical cancer is the third leading cause of death in Panama.
The optimum goal of the Ministry is for all women to visit the gynecologist, especially those who start sexual activity at an early age. In fact, they advise that women should start going for pap tests as soon as they start having sex or at 21 years old.
Dr Smith said that women should visit their doctor at least twice a year.
The test, pap smear also calledpapanikolau, is a screening test used in gynecology to detect abnormal cells with pre-malignant and cancerous lesions.
In taking a pap smear, a tool is used to gather cells from the outer opening of the cervix of the uterus and the endocervix. It is not painful and the procedure can be carried out at the doctor's office.
Results usually take 5 to 10 days but, due to government bureaucracy and back up, it can take up to three weeks if made through State health centers.
Cancerous and precancerous lesions are mostly cause by human papilloma virus (HPV) infections.
More than 30 HPV types are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the ano-genital region. Some sexually transmitted HPVs may cause genital warts. Persistent infection with HPV may progress to precancerous lesions and cancer. HPV infection is a cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. If a test shows an abnormality, the patient may be referred for detailed inspection of the cervix by colposcopy.
“I wish 100 percent of women went to the gynecologist to do regular checkups because, made on time, it can save lots of lives,” said Dr. Darcy.
Pap smear testing has proven to be one of the most successful screening tests in the history of medicine. Since the test was developed there has been a 70 percent decrease in cervical cancer deaths worldwide over the last 50 years. The test was invented by and named after the prominent Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou.