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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
- A weak immune system
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) medicine when your mother was pregnant with you
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.