Pap Smear


Pap Smear Test

A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, is a screening procedure used to detect signs of precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix. This test can help diagnose and prevent cervical cancer, which is the second most common type of cancer among women. During the procedure, a healthcare professional will take a sample of cells from the cervix and examine it for any abnormalities.

Preparation for a Pap Smear

In preparation for a Pap smear, your doctor may ask you to avoid intercourse, douching, and vaginal medicines for at least 24 hours before your scheduled test. Your healthcare provider may also ask you to abstain from vaginal creams or tampons, as these may interfere with the test results.


The procedure for a Pap smear is incredibly brief and typically takes just a few minutes. Your healthcare provider will insert a speculum into the vaginal canal and then use a small plastic brush and spatula to take a sample of cells from the cervix. The sample is then sent to a lab for examination.

Types of Pap Smears

  • Conventional Pap Smear – This type of Pap smear is the most commonly used screening test for cervical cancer. During this procedure, your doctor will use a manual visual inspection of the cervix to take a sample of cells.
  • Liquid-based Pap Smear – The liquid-based Pap smear is a newer version of the conventional test. During this test, a healthcare provider uses a thin brush to take a sample of cells and then places them into a vial filled with preservative liquid. This liquid is then sent to a laboratory for further analysis.
  • Viral DNA Pap Smear – This type of Pap smear is used to detect Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause cervical cancer. During this test, cells are taken from the cervix and tested for the presence of HPV.

Risks and Complications

The risks and complications associated with a Pap smear are typically minimal. Mild discomfort and minor bleeding may occur during the procedure, but these symptoms usually subside quickly on their own. Additionally, false positive and false negative results can occur in some cases.

Why It Is Done

Pap smears are an important tool in the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. The Pap smear can help detect changes in cervical cells that may indicate cervical cancer or precancerous lesions. By identifying these lesions, your healthcare provider can diagnose and treat cervical cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

When to Get a Pap Smear

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a Pap smear every three years, unless they have other risk factors that warrant more frequent screenings. Women also should be tested for HPV every three years. Pap smears should also be done more often if your healthcare provider notices any abnormal changes in your cervical cells.