What is a Pap smear?

  • The Pap smear checks for changes in the cells of your cervix
  • The cervix is the lower part of your uterus that opens into the vagina
  • The Pap smear does not check for sexually transmitted diseases or vaginal infections
  • To check for infections other tests need to be done
  • What exactly is a Pap smear checking for?

How often should I have a Pap smear?

  • It is important to have a Pap smear annually if you are sexually active or if you are age 21 and never had sex before
  • Women with HIV, compromised immune systems, organ transplants, chronic steroid use, or history of diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth should be screened more often

Do I need to get a Pap smear if I have had a hysterectomy?

  • It is still important to have annual Pap smears because although the cervix is usually removed when the uterus is removed, abnormal cells can still grow in the vagina
  • Some women may have their uterus removed and keep the cervix so Pap smears are still important

How is the Pap smear done?

  • Pap smear is done during a pelvic exam
  • During a pelvic exam, the health care provider evaluates your uterus and ovaries and is separate from a Pap smear
  • A speculum is inserted into the vagina
  • The health care provider collects some cells from the cervix with a brush
  • These cells are placed into a container and sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope
  • It may take a week or 2 for the results to come back

What do the results mean?

  • A normal Pap smear means that the cells of the cervix are normal
  • An abnormal result means that the cells do not look normal and further testing is required
  • You may be scheduled for a procedure called a colposcopy which is where a microscope is used to look at the cervix and vagina
  • Your health care provider may take a sample of these areas which will be sent off to a lab
  • An abnormal result does not mean you have cancer
  • There are many reasons you results may be abnormal