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FAQ About the Pap Smear and Exam

What Is A Pap Smear?

The pap smear is a part of the pelvic exam used to examine the cells of the cervix to screen for signs of precancerous lesions and cancer. Incidentally, pap smears may identify cellular changes associated with infection. If theses problems are caught early, they can usually be treated successfully. The pap is not a specific test for HPV, although sometimes the results suggest that HPV may be present.

When Should I Have A Pap Smear?

All women should begin having Pap screenings when they become or are preparing to become sexually active. After the initial screening, you and your health care provider will need to determine the frequency of future smears. Usually, yearly exams are recommended. If abnormal cells are identified you may need more frequent screening and more in-depth testing to obtain a definitive diagnosis or, treatment may be necessary.

How Should I Prepare For A Pap Smear?
  1. Schedule the Pap smear between menstrual cycles. Menstrual blood may obscure any cells obtained, making them impossible to evaluate.
  2. Take a bath or a shower the morning of your appointment.
  3. Avoid vaginal creams, foams, or suppositories for a week before your exam. Do not douche, use tampons or have sexual intercourse the day before the exam.
  4. Follow up the results of your pap smear according to the directions of your health care provider.
  5. Discuss how frequently you should return for screening. The answer will probably depend on your medical history and the outcome of your current pap and exam.