Pap tests are the best way to detect abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix.
Certain forms of human papillomavirus (HPV) are known to be associated with cervical cancer.1 Because HPV usually causes no symptoms, it may go undetected. Regular Pap tests can detect precancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix caused by HPV. You can also ask your doctor about new vaccines that may prevent certain types of HPV.
Women should get their first Pap test and pelvic exam at age 21. After that, we recommend the following guidelines:
• Get a Pap test every two to three years, depending on age.
• Women over the age of 30 should get a Pap test every three years after three consecutive normal Pap test results.
• Continue to be screened every year if you have risk factors for cervical cancer.
Plan for Your Pap
1. Schedule your Pap test for a day when you won't be having your period. A good time is five days after your period has ended.
2. Do not have sexual intercourse for two days before your Pap test.
3. Don't use tampons, birth control foams, douche, or vaginal creams for two to three days before your exam.*
Did You Know?
Between 60 percent and 80 percent of American women diagnosed with cervical cancer had not had a Pap test in five years.2 In fact, many had never had one at all. Abnormal Pap test results don’t necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer.3 If abnormal cervical cells are found early, treating them can keep cervical cancers from developing in the future.2
A Pap test is a standard part of your annual gynecological exam. Having one regularly may save your life.
1. "Human Papillomavirus.” 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2010.
2. “Cervical Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection.” American Cancer Society. 20 May 2008
3. “What is an abnormal pap test?” 2007. WebMD. 20 May 2008