The Pap Smear, also called a Pap Test, is a procedure that tests for cervical cancer in women.
Detecting cervical cancer early is key for the most successful chance at a cure. In women 30 and older, the Pap Test may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) – a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer in some women. Even if you are not sexually active, we’d still like to see you every three years after your 21st birthday, as not all cervical cancers are from viral infections.
This test is a vital way to make sure you stay healthy – the HPV virus can be dormant for years and then suddenly become active.
How often should the test be administered?
Generally, we recommend repeating Pap tests every three years for women ages 21-65.
If you have certain risk factors, we may recommend coming in to have more frequent tests done, regardless of your age. These types of factors include:
- HIV infection
- Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic corticosteroid use
- A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap Smear that showed precancerous cells
Do you need to prepare?
- Please avoid intercourse, douching, or using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, creams or jellies for two days before having a Pap Smear, as these may wash away or obscure abnormal cells.
- Try not to schedule a Pap Smear during your menstrual period. Although the test can be done, it’s best to avoid this time of your cycle, if possible.
What can you expect?
Our doctor’s priority is your comfort, so please let us know if you need to take a breather or if we can help you relax in any way. Though this exam is never fun for anyone, a Pap Smear only takes a few minutes to perform. You may be asked to undress completely or only from the waist down.
You’ll lie down on your back on an exam table with your knees bent. Your heels rest in supports called stirrups.
Your doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. Inserting the speculum may cause a sensation of pressure in your pelvic area.
Then your doctor will take samples of your cervical cells. This does not typically hurt; once we have secured the cells, the test is complete! We will have your results soon and will discuss these with you over the phone.