Pap Smear FAQ
When do I need to
start getting Pap smears?
- 21 years – Cervical cancer
screening should begin at age 21 years.
This is based on the very low incidence of cancer and a potential for
adverse effects associated with follow up of these young women. (HPV and dysplasia tend to regress spontaneously
- Women aged 21-29 should have a pap
smear every 1-2 years. Annual
gynecologic visits in these women may still be appropriate even if a pap smear
is not performed at the visit.
- Women aged 30 and above may be
screened every 3 years if they have had 3 consecutively normal pap smears. Co
testing with a combination pap cytology and an HPV DNA test is appropriate
screening test for women aged 30 or older.
- Women with the following risk
factors may need more frequent screening
- With HIV
- Who are immune suppressed
- Women exposed to DES in utero
- Women previously treated for CIN2,
CIN3 or cervical cancer.
What is the
difference between a Pap smear and a Well Woman’s Exam?
The Well Women’s Exam is done to
check your overall physical health and the pap smear screens for cervical
cancer. A pap smear is often done as part of a
Well Woman’s Exam.
Does it hurt?
The pelvic exam part of your
gynecologic exam should only take a few minutes. Some parts of the exam may be uncomfortable,
but it shouldn’t be painful. If it
hurts, be sure to tell your health care provider, who may be able to adjust
things to help you be more comfortable. This exam is for you, so don’t be afraid to speak up. You’ll feel less tense during your exam if
you breathe slowly and deeply with your mouth open, let your stomach muscle go
soft, relax your shoulders, relax the muscles between your legs, ask your
health care provider to describe what is happening, and you may bring your personal music player to help you
What is a Pap smear?
visual of Pap collection
How much does it
? include range of price or link to
cost of services page., maybe mention insurance coverage.
transmitted infection tests or a pregnancy test be included in a Pap smear
A Pap Smear test screens for the
effects of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) in cervical cells. Screening for sexually transmitted infections
(STIs) or pregnancy is not always done, however yearly Chlamydia screening is
recommended for sexually active women aged 16-24. Pregnancy tests can also be
done on urine specimens at your request.
Are there any side
effects from a Pap smear?
Some people may experience mild
cramping and spotting for a few hours after the exam.
How long does it take
to get a Pap smear?
It usually takes approximately 15
minutes to collect the sample.
How do I prepare
myself for an exam?
- Plan ahead. You should schedule the exam when you are not
on your period.
- Do not use any vaginal product (such as creams, lubricants or
douches) or have intercourse for 1-2 days prior to the test
- Make a list of any
questions you may have
- Bring a friend if that would make you more
comfortable. Anti-anxiety medications may
be available if requested prior to the appointment.
- You are encouraged to empty
your bladder prior to the pelvic exam.
Who would be
collecting my Pap smear?
Trained medical providers in
Women’s Health Clinic or Primary Care Clinics would be available to provide
care. Discuss with the appointment
schedulers whether you have a preference of male or female provider.
For more information, see the pap smear video.