(Pap Smear; Pap Screening; Papanicolaou Test; Cervical Cancer Screening)
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Reasons for Test
- 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.
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.
- 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
- Have had surgery, radiation treatment , or chemotherapy
- Are taking birth control pills , hormone pills, or using hormone cream
Description of Test
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
- If cells are normal, no treatment is needed. You will continue your regular Pap test screens.
- If an infection is found, treatment will be prescribed.
- If cervical abnormalities are found, further tests will be done. When your doctor determines the cause, she will discuss treatment options with you. Further tests may include:
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Foul vaginal odor, pain, or unusual vaginal discharge
- Severe abdominal pain or swelling
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
United States Department of Health and Human Services - Office on Women's Health http://www.womenshealth.gov
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Cervical cytology screening. Obstet Gynecol . 2009 Dec;114(6):1409-20.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
Pap smear. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated August 3, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2012.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm
- Review Date: 03/2013 -
- Update Date: 03/15/2013 -