During the Pap smear
A Pap smear is performed in your doctor's office and takes only a few minutes. You may be asked to undress completely or only from the waist down.
You'll lie down on your back on an exam table with your knees bent. Your heels rest in supports called stirrups.
Your doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of the vagina apart so that your doctor can easily see your cervix. Inserting the speculum may cause a sensation of pressure in your pelvic area.
Then your doctor will take samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush or a flat scraping device called a spatula. This usually doesn't hurt.
After the Pap smear
After your Pap smear, you can go about your day without restrictions.
Depending on the type of Pap test you're undergoing, your doctor transfers the cell sample collected from your cervix into a container holding a special liquid to preserve the sample (liquid-based Pap test) or onto a glass slide (conventional Pap test).
The samples are transferred to a laboratory where they're examined under a microscope to look for characteristics in the cells that indicate cancer or a precancerous condition.
Ask your doctor about when you can expect the results of your Pap smear. In some cases, your doctor will contact you only if something of concern is found or if it's determined that you need further testing.
Oct. 31, 2012
- The Pap test. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/For_Patients. Accessed May 22, 2012.
- Pap test. WomensHealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/pap-test.cfm. Accessed May 22, 2012.
- Cervical cytology screening. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;114:1409.
- Saslow D, et al. American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:147.
- Screening for cervical cancer. Rockville, Md.: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf11/cervcancer/cervcancerrs.htm. Accessed May 22, 2012.
- Preventive services for adults. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. http://www.icsi.org/guidelines_and_more/gl_os_prot/preventive_health_maintenance/preventive_services_for_adults/preventive_services_for_adults__11.html. Accessed May 22, 2012.
- Cervical cancer screening. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed May 22, 2012.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Gynecology. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 131: Screening for Cervical Cancer. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2012;120:1222.