What happens and why it can save lives

Your gynecologist will do a Pap smear on a regular basis. This service is part of cancer screening and is paid for by your health insurance company. But unfortunately only at a certain age.

What is the pap smear?

A Pap smear is a vaginal cell smear that gynecologists take as part of a female cancer screening. The test is named after its developer, Greek physician George Papanicolaou. The smear is also known as a cancer screening smear or Pap smear.

The test is intended to provide early evidence of the possible presence of HPV viruses in the cervix. These sexually transmitted viruses can cause cervical cancer and malignant growths. If they are detected early, it is possible to take the necessary steps to remove the cancer. A regular smear guarantees significantly fewer cervical cancer cases and fatal outcomes.

How does the Pap test work?

The Pap smear is not painful at all, even if only a little uncomfortable the first time. It is not necessary to have fears or worries. Your gynecologist will explain to you exactly what is happening on your first visit.

Here’s how the Pap test is done

  • You sit comfortably in the special examination chair and slide all the way down with your legs spread. The legs are bent at 90 ° C. The legs rest on the special leg supports. You can relax and breathe as calmly as possible.
  • Your doctor will open your vagina slightly with a speculum so that you can examine it better.
  • Then they use a brush or spatula to remove cellular material from the uterine canal and cervix. Insert the spatula very carefully. You hardly notice anything.
  • The collected material is fixed on a slide and sent to the laboratory as a sample.
  • There, the Papanicolaou stain, named after the inventor, is used to determine if malignant tissue is present.

The doctor will wait for the lab results and then receive a report. You will be informed only in case of anomalies. These are classified as follows:

result group result follow-up exams
Pap 0 Insufficient material for a possible find repetition of the stain
Pap I. Normal results check a year later
Pap II Physiological finding with mild inflammation check a year later
Pap III Severe inflammation, possible HPV infection Another check
Pap III D mild to moderate cellular dysplasia Check every three months
Pap IV A severe cellular dysplasia Removal of tissue or section of suspicious cellular material
Pap IV B possible carcinoma Removal of tissue or material section, examination for further dispersion
Pope V Malignant cervical cancer (cervical cancer) Tissue removal, material section, dispersion investigation

What if the Pap smear is abnormal?

As soon as the laboratory test becomes evident, you will be informed and, if necessary, you will be asked to be re-examined. Your doctor will then discuss further treatment and procedure with you. First of all, don’t worry. HPV infection rarely causes cancer after years, and when it does, it takes an average of 10 to 15 years. Thanks to early diagnosis, the affected tissue can be removed very easily. Any further questions should be asked directly by your medical team.

Women over 35 have to pay for their annual Pap smear themselves

The Pap test is one of the services provided by mandatory health insurance companies. So far, this has applied without restriction to all women. However, according to the latest research findings, there is a change. The test is now only paid every 3 years for women aged 35 and over. This is because HPV infections are less common in older women. It was therefore decided that a cell smear every three to five years would suffice. This means:

  • Women up to age 34 receive an annual Pap smear as a health insurance benefit.
  • Women over the age of 35 receive a Pap test every three years as a health insurance benefit.
  • However, women over the age of 35 can, of course, have an annual test done at their own expense.

What You Should Know About Cancer Screening

In order to reduce the number of cancer patients, the RKI recommends that girls between the ages of 9 and 14 should be vaccinated against cervical cancer. It is also recommended for boys because the virus is sexually transmitted and could also cause cancer of the genitals, anal region or oral cavity.

Vaccination is one of the benefits of health insurance for girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14. So ask your gynecologist if you have children of this age or if you are this age yourself.

Overall, gynecological cancer screening for women includes:

  • the pap smear
  • vaginal ultrasound and examination of the ovaries
  • regular palpation of both breasts

You can also participate in an HPV test. This can be used to determine if you are infected with HPV. This can happen even at an early age that is sexually active. If you are under 35, ask your treating gynecologist.

There are some diseases that only affect women. You should have heard of these at least once:

Period quiz: do you already know EVERYTHING about female periods and menstruation?

Sources: Netdoktor, dkfz. Cancer Information Service, Federal Ministry of Health, Familie.de,

Image credit: Getty Images / nortonrsx

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