Women's Health Tutorial

Pap smear

The Pap smear is a screening test to look for cervical cancer and precancerous, abnormal cells. With early detection, cervical cancer is curable.

During the Pap smear test, you will lie on the examination table, with your heels resting in the stirrups. After gently inserting a speculum into your vagina, your provider will take a sample of cells from your cervix with a wooden/plastic scraper and a small cervical brush. This specimen (or smear) is placed into a vial of liquid preservative and sent to a laboratory for examination. The procedure is very quick and very painless.

To prepare for your Pap smear:
  • Do NOT have sex for 24 hours before your appointment
  • Do NOT douche or use any vaginal cream, lubricant, or vaginal contraceptive (sponge, diaphragm, cap) for 2-3 days before your appointment
  • As best you can, schedule your Pap smear during a week when you aren't expecting to get your period.
The Health Center uses a two-step Pap smear process.
  • If no cells on the surface of the cervix appear abnormal, the Pap smear is reported as normal.
  • If one kind of abnormality (called Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance or ASCUS) is detected, leftover cells from the Pap smear are tested by the lab for the presence of HPV (the genital wart virus). Depending on what the results of this additional test show, your clinician may recommend further testing with a gynecologist, or she may just schedule you for another routine Pap smear in one year.
  • If a different kind of abnormal cell is detected (called Low Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion or LGSIL), you will be referred to a gynecologist for further evaluation.

*Remember that these abnormal cells rarely cause any problems; most women clear the HPV infection on their own. You can ask your clinicians for more specific information about your results.

Back to page 7 Back Home On to page 9