Pap Test

ExitCare ImageA Pap test is a procedure done in a clinic office to evaluate cells that are on the surface of the cervix. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus and upper portion of the vagina. For some women, the cervical region has the potential to form cancer. With consistent evaluations by your caregiver, this type of cancer can be prevented.

If a Pap test is abnormal, it is most often a result of a previous exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus that can infect the cells of the cervix and cause dysplasia. Dysplasia is where the cells no longer look normal. If a woman has been diagnosed with high-grade or severe dysplasia, they are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. People diagnosed with low-grade dysplasia should still be seen by their caregiver because there is a small chance that low-grade dysplasia could develop into cancer.


  • Recent sexually transmitted infection (STI) you have had.

  • Any new sex partners you have had.

  • History of previous abnormal Pap tests results.

  • History of previous cervical procedures you have had (colposcopy, biopsy, loop electrosurgical excision procedure [LEEP]).

  • Concerns you have had regarding unusual vaginal discharge.

  • History of pelvic pain.

  • Your use of birth control.


  • Ask your caregiver when to schedule your Pap test. It is best not to be on your period if your caregiver uses a wooden spatula to collect cells or applies cells to a glass slide. Newer techniques are not so sensitive to the timing of a menstrual cycle.

  • Do not douche or have sexual intercourse for 24 hours before the test.  

  • Do not use vaginal creams or tampons for 24 hours before the test.  

  • Empty your bladder just before the test to lessen any discomfort.  


You will lie on an exam table with your feet in stirrups. A warm metal or plastic instrument (speculum) is placed in your vagina. This instrument allows your caregiver to see the inside of your vagina and look at your cervix. A small, plastic brush or wooden spatula is then used to collect cervical cells. These cells are placed in a lab specimen container. The cells are looked at under a microscope. A specialist will determine if the cells are normal.


Make sure to get your test results. If your results come back abnormal, you may need further testing.