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Pap Test

The Pap test (also called a Pap smear) is a screening test for cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The test can help your doctor find early changes in the cells that could lead to cancer.

The sample of cells taken during your test has been sent to a lab so that an expert can look at the cells. It usually takes a week or two to get the results back.

  • How to prepare for a Pap test

    How do you prepare for a Pap test?

    • Try to schedule the test when you're not having your period, since blood can interfere with the results of the test. If your bleeding is light, you may still be able to have a Pap test.
    • Do not use douches, tampons, vaginal medicines, sprays, or powders for at least 24 hours before your test.
    • Some doctors recommend that you avoid sex for 24 hours before a Pap test.
    • If you've had problems with pelvic exams in the past or have experienced rape or sexual abuse, talk to your doctor about your concerns or fears before the exam.
  • Results of a Pap test

    What do the results of a Pap test mean?

    Results of a Pap test are usually ready in 1 to 2 weeks. Ask your doctor when you can expect the results.

    Normal

    The sample contained enough cells, and no abnormal cells were found.

    Normal Pap test results don't completely rule out the presence of abnormal cells (dysplasia) or cervical cancer.

    Unclear

    It could mean that there weren't enough cells to test or that the cell changes were small.

    You may be able to wait until your next scheduled screening test. Or you may need to be retested sooner.

    Abnormal

    The sample had abnormal cells. It means that you have changes on your cervix that will either go away on their own, or that could, over time, lead to cervical cancer. Your doctor will let you know what comes next.