For a Pap test, your healthcare provider will collect and examine cells from your cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus. He or she will do this test to screen for cervical cancer and other problems.
It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about when and how often you should have a Pap test. Experts base screening guidelines on your age and risk factors for cervical cancer.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), guidelines include:
A Pap test, along with a pelvic exam, is an important part of your routine healthcare. It can help find abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. Your healthcare provider can find most cancers of the cervix early if you have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams. Cancer of the cervix is more likely to be successfully treated if it is found early.
The Pap test is useful for finding cancerous cells, and other cervical and vaginal problems such as precancerous cells and inflammation.
Your healthcare provider may use a Pap test to diagnose the following conditions:
Your healthcare provider may do a test for the human papilloma virus (HPV) at the same time as a Pap test. Infection with HPV is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer in women over age 30.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a Pap test.
Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to or sensitive to latex.
Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or think you might be.
There may be other risks based on your condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Certain things may interfere with a Pap test including:
Procedures may vary based on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.
Generally, a Pap test follows this process:
You may rest for a few minutes after the procedure before going home. Scraping the cervix may cause a small amount of bleeding. You may want to wear a sanitary pad for any spotting that may occur.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
Pap test results usually take a few days. Ask your healthcare provider how you will be hear back about the results.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, based on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: