Papanicolaou smear or Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It is used to detect cancerous cells in the cervix early, as well as to detect abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancerous. It is a painless test for most women done in a doctor’s clinic during a pelvic exam.
During a Pap smear, a cell sample from the cervix is taken with a small wooden spatula or brush and examined under the microscope. It is advisable to have a Pap test every 2 years starting at age 21. Abnormal results from a Pap smear do not necessarily indicate cancer. Other conditions such as inflammation and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause abnormal changes in cells.
Abnormal results from a Pap smear do not necessarily indicate cervical cancer. Other conditions such as inflammation and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause abnormal changes in cells. If you have abnormal Pap test results, your doctor will suggest other tests to make a diagnosis.
If you’re younger than 21: Have your first Pap test at age 21. Repeat every 2 years. If you are 30 years and older and have had three normal Pap tests in a row, you can then have one every 3 years. If you are older than 65 with normal Pap test results, you may not need any further tests. If your cervix has been removed as part of a hysterectomy and the surgery was not due to cancer, you may not need further Pap tests.