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Pap Smear


A Pap smear, or Pap test, is used to screen for cervical cancer. It is also used to find precancerous and cancerous cells of the vulva and vagina.


Prepare for a Pap smear:

The best time to schedule the test is right after your period stops. Do not have a Pap smear during your monthly period.

During a Pap smear:

  • You will lie on your back and place your feet on footrests called stirrups. Your healthcare provider will gently insert a device called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum is used to open the walls of your vagina so he can see your cervix.
  • Your healthcare provider will gently scrape your cervix and vaginal areas for cell samples. The samples are placed in a container with liquid or on a glass slide. They are sent to a lab and examined for abnormal cells. A test for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) may be done at the same time. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause changes in cervical cells.

After your Pap smear:

Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can expect your Pap smear results. You may have some spotting the day of your procedure.

When to get a Pap smear:

Pap smears are usually done every 3 to 5 years depending on your age. You may need a Pap smear more often if you have any of the following:

  • Positive test result for the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A history of cervical cancer
  • HIV
  • A weak immune system
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) medicine when your mother was pregnant with you

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Pap Smear (Aftercare Instructions)

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