A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. It tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on your cervix. The cervix is the opening of the uterus.
During the routine procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped away and examined for abnormal growth. The procedure is done at your doctor’s office. It may be mildly uncomfortable, but doesn’t usually cause any long-term pain
What Happens During the Test?
It’s done in your doctor’s office or clinic and takes about 10 to 20 minutes.
You’ll lie on a table with your feet placed firmly in stirrups. You’ll spread your legs, and your doctor will insert a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina. He’ll open it so that it widens the vaginal walls. This allows him to see your cervix. Your doctor will use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix. He’ll place them into a liquid substance in a small jar, and send them to a lab for review.
The Pap test doesn’t hurt, but you may feel a little pinch or a bit of pressure
Who needs a Pap smear?
Current guidelines recommend that women get regular Pap smears every three years starting at age 21. Some women may be at increased risk for cancer or infection. You may need more frequent tests.
How often do you need a Pap smear?
How often you need a Pap smear is determined by various factors, including your age and risk.
|Age||Pap smear frequency|
|<21 years old,||none needed|
|21-29||every 3 years|
|30-65||every 3 years or an HPV test every 5 years or a Pap test and HPV test together every 5 years|
|65 and older||you may no longer need Pap smear tests; talk to your doctor to determine your needs|
These recommendations only apply to women who have a cervix. Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix and no history of cervical cancer do not need screening.
Recommendations vary and should be individualized for women with compromised immune systems or a history of precancerous, or cancerous lesions.