Pap Smear

What is a Pap smear?

The Pap test is a method of examining cells from the cervix. The Papanicolaou smear (Pap test) is a test used to screen women for cervical precancer or cancer. Pap tests can find cervical cancer and precancer in the early stages when it can be treated, and thus may reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer

How is a Pap test done?

To perform a Pap test, a doctor or other health care provider will perform a pelvic exam and use a small brush or spatula to collect cells from the cervix. The cells are added to a preservative fluid (called liquid-based, thin layer testing) and sent to the lab for testing of cervical cells, HPV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.

When should a Pap smear be done?

In the United States, the first Pap test is recommended at age 21. Cervical cancer is very rare in younger women. Pap smear screening before age 21 in girls and women who are sexually active is not recommended because of the very high risk of false-positive results (that is, do not indicate a precancerous condition) because many HPV infections in this group are temporary.

What is HPV testing?

An HPV test can be done along with a Pap test or as a separate test. Like a Pap test, the HPV test is done during a pelvic exam, using a small brush to collect a sample from the cervix. Women who are under age 30 are not usually tested for HPV because many women in this age group have temporary infections, which will go away without treatment.

Why is a Pap test recommended?

ACOG stated in a recent release, “It is disappointing that millions of American women – more than 11 percent – have not been screened for cervical cancer in the last five years. Data have demonstrated that widespread cervical cancer screening leads to a reduction in cervical cancer incidence and mortality. In fact, most cervical cancer occurs in women who have never been screened or who have been inadequately screened.

“The impact of cervical cancer screening on women’s health is dramatic. Widespread screening has decreased the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States by more than 50% in the past 30 years. In 1975, the rate was 14.8 per 100,000 women. By 2008, it had been reduced to 6.6 per 100,000 women. Mortality from the disease has undergone a similar decrease, from 5.55 per 100,000 women in 1975 to 2.38 per 100,000 women in 2008”, as per data from ACOG.


A well woman visit includes, Pap smear, STD testing and counseling, contraception counseling and prescription. This is covered without co-pay by most insurances.

For more information on how the results of Pap test are interpreted, please see the “abnormal pap” section.



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