Pap Smear FAQ

What is a Pap smear?
Who needs one?
What factors increase my risk?
How is the Pap smear read?
When will I get my results?
What do I do about an abnormal Pap smear?
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What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a screening test for cancer of the cervix. The procedure is usually not painful, although there may be some discomfort when the cervix is touched to collect the sample. The Pap smear is one of the tests that may be done during your annual well woman exam. Chlamydia and gonorrhea tests may be done also.

Who needs one?

The first Pap smear should be done when a woman is age 21. To help make your Pap smear more accurate, don't douche, don't use tampons, don't use vaginal medications, or have intercourse for about two days prior to your exam. All women should have a well woman examination once a year.

What factors increase my risk for an abnormal Pap smear?
  • Women who smoke.
  • Women who have HPV.
  • Women who are immunosuppressed (HIV or organ transplant).
  • Women whose mothers took DES, a synthetic hormone commonly used to prevent miscarriages from 1940-1971.
  • Women who have had multiple sexual partners.
  • Women with a prior history of a high grade abnormal Pap smear.
How is the Pap Smear read?

The Pap smear is evaluated by a cytotechnologist, and, if abnormal, by a pathologist. It will be reported to you as:

  • Normal/Negative - No abnormal cells were detected.
  • Atypical - Atypical cells are not completely normal, but also do not meet criteria to be called abnormal.
  • Abnormal - The Pap smear report shows cells which are mild, moderate, or severely abnormal. A Pap smear in this category usually requires further evaluation. Your health care provider may recommend a colposcopy. A colposcopy is a special way to examine the cervix with magnification.
When will I get my results?

You will receive your results in the mail within 2-3 weeks.

What do I do about an abnormal Pap Smear?

Don't panic!

Read your Pap smear letter carefully and follow the recommendations. If you have questions make an appointment with your health care provider or call the Women's Clinic at 785.532.6544.

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