Introduction

A Pap smear test is a preventive measure that can detect pre-cancerous or cancerous cervical cells.  A yearly Pap smear is performed as part of a regular gynecological exam.  A Pap smear involves obtaining cells from the cervix for examination.  Cervix cancer that is identified and treated early is associated with good outcomes.  Pre-cancerous cells approach 100% curable.

Cervical cancer occurs when the cells in the cervix grow abnormally or out of control.  The exact cause of cervical cancer is unknown.  Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, cause most cases of cervical cancer.  A vaccine is available to prevent infection against the two types of HPV that are responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases and the two types of HPV that are responsible for the majority of genital wart cases.

Annual pap smear testing and pelvic examinations and should begin when a woman becomes sexually active or after the age of 20.  A Pap smear identifies abnormal cellular changes, pre-cancerous cells, or cancerous cells.  If the results of your Pap smear are abnormal, your doctor may repeat your Pap smear and conduct additional tests.

Treatment

A Pap smear is a short in-office procedure.  You should avoid douching, using tampons, or engaging in sexual intercourse for 24 hours before your test.  Schedule your Pap smear for a time when you do not have your period, as blood or fluid may interfere with your test results.

During the Pap smear procedure, you will lie on your back on an examination table.  You will place your feet in stirrups to position your pelvis for your examination.  Your doctor will gently insert a speculum to open the walls of your vagina.  Your doctor will gently scrape your cervix with small instruments to obtain cell samples.  The cell samples are preserved and sent to a laboratory for examination.

You may experience slight discomfort or pressure during the test, although many women do not.  It is common to have slight bleeding after the test.  Your doctor will notify you when your test results are received.