A gynaecologist, Dr Idris Yakubu, has advised women to do Pap smear test regular whether or not they are sexually active.
He gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.
Yakubu explained that the Pap smear test helps in identifying traces of abnormal growth in the cervix that could cause cervival cancer, emphasising that early detection is critical to timely treatment and prevention.
He described Pap smear, otherwise known as Pap test, as a screening procedure for cervical cancer that test for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix.
According to him, it is important for every sexually active woman to get a regular Pap smear as well as those in a monogamous relationship.
“This is because HPV can be dormant for years, and then suddenly become active,” he said.
Yakubu also said that most cervical cancers are due to infection from the HPV, which is sexually transmitted, adding that not all cervical cancers are caused by viral infections.
He further explained that HPV causes warts and having the virus increases the risk of developing cervical cancer which the primary causes of cervical cancer are HPV types 16 and 18.
The gynaecologist explained that if the test results are abnormal it does not mean the patient has cancer but it simply means that there are abnormal cells on the cervix, some of which could be precancerous.
“All women are at risk for cervical cancer, even if you’re not sexually active.
“For this reason, it is recommended that all women start their cervical cancer screening with a Pap smear every three years beginning at age 21.
“If you are between ages 21 and 29 and sexually active, you should get a Pap test every three years, and women between ages 30 and 64 should get a Pap test and HPV test together every five years or a Pap test alone every three years, if the result is negative.
“Women over the age of 65 with a history of normal Pap test results may be able to stop having Pap smears in the future.
“Women should still get regular Pap smears even if in a monogamous relationship, because the HPV virus can be dormant for years, and then suddenly become active,” he warned.
Yakubu, however, advised women to avoid intercourse, douching or using spermicidal products a day before a Pap test because it may interfere with the result.
He noted that Pap tests are very accurate, and regular Pap screenings reduce cervical cancer rates and mortality by 80 per cent.
Yakubu added that the main purpose of a Pap smear test was to identify cellular changes in the cervix, which could be caused by HPV and by detecting cervical cancer cells early with a Pap smear, treatment could start before it spreads and becomes a bigger problem.
He also warned that a woman could contract HPV through sex with men or women and enjoined sexually active women to get a Pap smear at least every three years. (NAN)