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