What is a Pap test?
A Pap test, often referred to as a Pap smear, is a way for your physician to examine cells collected from your cervix, or your vagina. A Pap test is a vital component of a woman’s healthcare regimen. If you are over the age of 21, it is recommended that you have a Pap test every three years. If you’ve had a hysterectomy that involved the removal of your uterus due to reasons other than cancer, you no longer need Pap tests.
The test is typically done during a pelvic exam. Your doctor will use a device to widen your vagina so both your cervix and upper-vagina can be examined. Next, a plastic “broom” device will be used to collect cells from the cervix. Those cells are sent to a lab for testing. The test isn’t painful, but it can cause some discomfort.
A Pap smear is an effective way to screen for cervical cancer. However, there are factors that can distort the results:
- Insufficient amount of cells collected
- A few abnormal cells
- Inflammatory cells obscuring irregular cells
While there is no major preparation involved with a Pap test, you should try to avoid intercourse, douching products, vaginal medicines, or anything that can obscure abnormal cells. In addition, it’s best to avoid having a Pap test during your menstrual period.
What to expect after treatment
After your Pap test, the results will be sent to a lab. Check with your doctor about when you can expect your results. If the results come back with any abnormalities, your doctor will contact you to come in for further testing.