(Pap Smear; Pap Screening; Papanicolaou Test; Cervical Cancer Screening)
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The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb). The cells on the cervix can become cancerous. Changes detected early can be treated before cancer develops. A Pap test is a way to look for changing or cancerous cells on the cervix.
Reasons for Test
Talk to your doctor about when you should have Pap tests done. Professional health organizations have differing guidelines.
- If you are age 21-29 years, you should have the Pap test every 2-3 years.
- If you are age 30-65, you should have the Pap test along with the HPV test every 3-5 years.
- If you are age 65 or older, you may be able to stop having Pap and HPV tests if you have had normal results (such as, three normal results in a row and no abnormal results in the past 10 years).
- Note: You will need to have Pap tests done more often if you have abnormal results. You may also need more frequent testing if you have certain conditions, like a suppressed immune system or a history of cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about the right screening schedule for you.
There are no major complications associated with this test.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
- Do not schedule the Pap test during your menstrual period. If possible, schedule it two weeks after the first day of your period.
- Do not use vaginal creams, medicines, or douches for 72 hours before the test.
- Do not use contraceptives such as spermicidal foams, creams, or jellies for 72 hours before the test.
- Do not have sex for 24 hours before the test.
Tell your doctor if you:
- Are having your period
- Are pregnant
- Have had a previous Pap test showing abnormalities
- Have had any cervical procedures, like loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)
- Are sexually active
- Have been exposed to HPV or other sexually-transmitted diseases
- Have had abnormal vaginal discharges or vaginal infections