Pap Test (Pap Smear): Purpose, Procedure, Results

May 18, 2023

We’re all aware of the importance of regular health examinations. From making a bi-annual trip to the dentist’s office to visiting a gynecologist once a year to going in for a general health check-up every three years, women of all ages are encouraged to make their health their top priority and practice preventative care. If you happen to be over 21 years old, there’s another exam you need to take – Pap test.

Just like any other examination, Pap test or Pap smear, as it is often referred to, helps ensure that everything is alright with a woman’s reproductive system. It also helps detect any abnormalities early on, which is why regular screenings are a must. If you haven’t taken a Pap test yet or are interested in learning more about this screening procedure, here’s everything you need to know about Pap smear, from purpose and preparation process to procedure and the results.

What is the purpose of taking a Pap test?

Painless, quick, and potentially life-saving, a Pap test is a screening procedure aimed at identifying any cervical changes. Named after the Greek doctor Papanicolau who invented the test in the 1940s, Pap test helps with the detection of any precancerous or cancerous cells on a woman’s cervix. It’s an important part of maintaining optimal women’s health and is performed routinely during a pelvic exam.

Other than enabling doctors to detect developing cancers and provide treatment, taking a Pap test is also a way for them to check for human papillomavirus (HPV).

When is the right time to take a Pap test?

This will largely depend on several factors, including a woman’s health and age. If you are pregnant, your practitioner will automatically have you tested. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Pap test is one of the health musts for women aged 21-65.

It is recommended that women take this test every three years. Depending on your overall health, your doctor may recommend you take the test more frequently. This is especially true for patients with a weakened immune system, cervical cancer, HIV infection, or if precancerous cells were detected during their previous Pap test.

What does the procedure look like?

When it comes to the actual procedure, you can expect it to be done in just a few minutes. The doctor will take a sample of cells from the vaginal walls using a swab. They will then send the sample to the lab for further testing. Some patients describe it as mildly uncomfortable – it feels just a pinch or a bit of pressure and lasts rather shortly.

Generally speaking, taking a Pap Smear test is usually conducted during a pelvic examination. There are no restrictions after the test whatsoever. This means you can continue with your day-to-day activities as you normally would.

When will the results be ready?

After the Pap test is complete, it may take several days for the sample to be processed and analyzed. Ideally, the results of the test will be negative, meaning that there weren’t any precancerous or cancerous cells that your doctor found. On the other hand, positive or abnormal Pap test results will indicate that there were some irregularities.

This can be frightening, but it doesn’t necessarily signify cervical cancer. Sometimes, Pap smear results are positive due to inflammation and infections such as HPV, or there may be a lab test error. In case of inflammation, your doctor may order another Pap test in several months.

How can I prepare for a Pap test?

In order for the test results to be accurate, you want to make sure that you prepare for the test properly. During the 48 hours before the appointment, you want to avoid douching.

It’s also best that you don’t have sex or use lubricants two days prior to the test. Using tampons is off limits during this period as well, and the same goes for creams, sprays, and powders. Also, do reschedule your appointment if you happen to be menstruating that day.This may affect the end results and make them less accurate. If you’re pregnant, it’s best that you have Pap smear before your 24th week. After pregnancy, wait for three months following birth to schedule a Pap test to ensure better accuracy.

A quick test that ensures peace of mind down the road

Quick and painless, Pap smear is a test that can potentially save women’s lives. This makes it a valuable tool for ensuring optimal reproductive health and a health must for women of all ages. The sooner you schedule yours, the less you’ll have to worry about dealing with unpleasant surprises down the road.



I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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