FAQ PAP Test
Q. What is a Pap test?
A. The Pap test is a simple,
relatively painless and inexpensive method for detecting
precancerous and cancerous conditions of the cervix (the lower end
of the uterus). The test is involves a microscopic examination of
the cells scraped from the cervix. It's considered by many to be
the best cancer-screening tool available.
Q. Why have one?
A. The Pap test is used to
detect abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, including
bacterial, yeast or viral infections of the cervix (such as herpes
simplex) and pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. When pre-cancerous
changes in cells in the cervix are identified, you can be treated
before the cells have a chance to develop into cancer.
Q. How is a Pap Smear Performed?
A. You will be asked to lie on
your back on the examination table with your buttocks at the edge
of the table and your feet supported in stirrups. Your doctor will
place a metal or plastic instrument called a speculum into your
vagina to expand the walls so the cervix can be seen. (Insertion
of the speculum may cause slight discomfort. You should let your
doctor know if you are too uncomfortable.) Your doctor will then
collect cells from around the opening of the cervix and its inner
and outer surfaces using a cervical brush. The cells are then
smeared onto a glass slide (hence the name Pap "smear") and
preserved with a chemical solution to prevent them from drying and
the Pap smear, your doctor will conduct a bimanual examination of
your uterus. By placing the fingers of one hand on your abdomen
and gently pushing the uterus up with two fingers placed within
the vagina, your doctor will check for abnormalities.
Q. How is the Pap Test Evaluated?
A. The slide, along with some
personal information (your age and gynecologic and obstetric
history), is sent to a laboratory. The laboratory technologist
examines the slide under a microscope and searches for
abnormalities among the 50,000 to 300,000 cells found on the
If the sample is considered
unacceptable, a new sample is requested.
The sample is categorized as being
"normal" or "other."
If designated as "other," the
sample is evaluated further. It is classified as infection,
inflammation or different stages and forms of cancer. The person
evaluating the Pap smear would describe the kinds of abnormal
calls that are found.
Q. How often should I have a Pap test?
A. You should have your first
Pap test when you turn 18 or when you become sexually active.
Since no test is 100% accurate, it's very important for women to
have regular Pap tests–annually for most women and more often if
you have a family or personal history of problems. Over time,
repeat tests with normal results make it highly unlikely that a
problem has been missed.
Q. Who is at high risk for cervical cancer?
A. woman's risk of cervical
cancer is directly related to the number of sexual partners she
has had: the greater the number of partners, the greater the risk.
The risk is also increased when a woman's sexual partner has had
other partners. Recent studies show that half of all married women
and from 70% to 80% of married men have had multiple sex partners.
Q. How can I improve the accuracy of my Pap test?
Don't douche or use vaginal
medications, lubricants or contraceptive products, such as
spermicides, for 2 to 3 days prior to the test because you may
wash away or hide abnormal cells.
Try to schedule your Pap test so it
takes place between the 12th and 16rh days of your menstrual
Abstain from sexual intercourse for
1 to 2 days prior to the test.