A Pap smear or Pap test is a test of a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix. The test is used to show changes in the cells that may indicate cervical cancer or precancerous changes. For over 60 years, it has been the most reliable screening test for cervical cancer and is responsible for reducing the rate of cervical cancer dramatically in the United States.
The Pap test is not painful, however, it does require a pelvic exam which may be uncomfortable.
If you have an abnormal Pap smear, you should have a discussion with your provider about what it means. Sometimes a Pap test can show signs of infection or irritation not related to cervical cancer.
Your provider may recommend alternative screening to the Pap test with a test known as an HPV test. This is a test that screens for a particular type of virus that is known to be related to cervical cancer. HPV testing may be included as part of your Pap testing should certain abnormalities appear.
It is always best to discuss your Pap test with your provider and be screened as often as recommended by your provider.