What is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is done to inspect any abnormalities or changes in the cells of the cervix (the lower opening of the uterus). A Pap smear can detect cervical cancer early, while it is still curable. Usually health care providers recommend that women have a Pap smear annually beginning at the age of 18 or within six months of first sexual intercourse.
An abnormal Pap smear result may indicate and infection, a precancerous condition or cancer. However, a Pap smear is just a screening; Its not 100% accurate. It may suggest a precancerous condition when in fact everything is normal. Sometimes it fails to detect cancer when it is there. Further testing through additional Pap smear, colonoscopy, biopsy, or specific STI screening may be necessary to accurately diagnose and properly treat the condition.
How to prepare
- Schedule the exam for a time when you don't expect to have your period.
- Do no douche 24 hours before your visit.
- Use a condom if you have intercourse less than 24 hours before your exam.
- Write down you questions so you don't forget them.
- Be prepared to tell your provider the date of your last period and how long it lasted.