The Pap smear, developed by Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou almost 70 years ago is a quick painless test in which cells of the female cervix are examined for abnormalities. Prior to routine pap smear testing in women, cervical cancer was the number one cancer killer in women worldwide. Over the last decade, physicians have come to recognize that the same test may be used for the early detection of anal cancer, an illness which is on the rise worldwide, especially in the gay and lesbian community. The disease is easily treatable when found early and is preventable. This is intended to dispel some myths about anal pap smears and help you decide if pap smear testing is right for you.
What is the Pap smear?
Your healthcare provider has recommended that you get an anal Pap smear. This simple, painless, inexpensive test is a way to screen for abnormal pre-cancerous cells that may line your anal canal. Physicians have long realized that infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is an important precursor to the development of cervical cancer and more recently that the same mechanisms are likely responsible in the development of anal cancer as well. The HPV infects the lining of the cervix and anus (and also less commonly the urethra and throat) and can cause mutations which, over time, can transform normal cell lining into cancer.