Pap Smears

Los Angeles Pap Smear

The Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer and precancerous cells of the cervix.

In order to collect a Pap smear, your doctor will insert a metal instrument called a speculum into the vagina.  By opening the speculum, the cervix can be seen.  The surface of the cervix is then scraped with a small brush.  The cells from the brush are collected into a jar and sent to the lab for evaluation under the microscope.

Ideally, you should not douche or have sex for 24 hours prior to a Pap smear.  If you are having a heavy menstrual flow, you should reschedule your Pap because excessive blood may interfere with the test.

You will receive your Pap smear results within one week.  The results will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Normal:  no abnormal cells were seen.
  • Atypical cells:  the cells are not clearly normal or abnormal.  This may be due to HPV, vaginal infections, or a processing issue in the lab.
  • Abnormal:  the cells are precancerous, or dysplastic.  These will be further categorized as mildly abnormal or severely abnormal.  These abnormal cells are caused by exposure to a sexually-transmitted infection called HPV, or Human Papillomavirus.

The 2012 guidelines for the frequency of Pap tests depends on the woman’s age:

  • Younger than 21:  No testing needed
  • Age 21-29:  Pap test every 2-3 years
  • Age 30-65:  Pap test every 2-3 years or Pap test plus HPV every 5 years
  • Older than 65:  No testing needed

If you have a history of abnormal Paps, HPV infections, immune system problems, or multiple sexual partners, your doctor may recommend for you to continue to have Paps annually.