New York City Pap Smear Testing
A Pap smear (or Pap test) is a screening test for cervical cancer. A Pap Smear looks for cell changes on the cervix that could advance to cancer if not treated.
During your pap test, the clinician will use a plastic or metal instrument called a speculum. This speculum is gently placed into your vagina and a warm light above helps examine your vagina and cervix. The clinician will collect cells and mucus from your cervix and place into a container to send to the laboratory. The laboratory will check for abnormal cells.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes cervical cancer?
Changes to the cells of the cervix that can lead to cancer are caused by long-term infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common outcome of being sexually active, with 4 out of 5 people having HPV at some stage in their life. Most people with HPV have no symptoms.
Usually your body will clear HPV naturally in 1 to 2 years, however in a small number of cases, it can stay for longer and lead to cervical cancer.
Who needs to have a Pap smear?
All women who have ever been sexually active need to have a regular Pap smear, even if:
- you are well and have no symptoms
- you have received the HPV vaccine (also known as the cervical cancer vaccine)
- you are pregnant
- you have only had one sexual partner
- same sex attracted/lesbian women
- you no longer have periods
- you no longer sexually active
- you have had a hysterectomy (your doctor can advise you)
Will a Pap Smear hurt?
It is normal to feel some discomfort during a Pap Smear, but it shouldn’t hurt. A speculum will be placed into your vagina to allow your provider to see more clearly. A cotton swab will then be done on your cervix.
How often should I get a Pap Smear?
Only you and your healthcare provider can determine what is right for you. Pap screening tests are often based on women’s age, and medical history. Professional groups of doctors and specialists from all over the world, called Societies, join in a large conference meeting and give expert opinions and make decisions on cancer screening tests and treatment if needed. These decisions are important to you because they are based on evidence and testing from women like you. Healthy women age 21-29 usually need a pap test every three years. It is not recommended to have a pap test every year.
My Pap Smear results were abnormal? What now?
Treatment is based on your test results and your healthcare provider can give you more information about this. Treatment should begin at 21 years old. This prevents treatment in young women who are at low risk for cervical cancer. The most common treatment option is observation for one year and then repeats the screening test. Your provider may tell you that you need further diagnostic testing to look more closely at your cervix and examine and/or biopsy any abnormal cells.
Remember, having abnormal cells does not mean you have cancer or are going to get cancer. Abnormal cells can usually be treated to prevent further complications. It is likely you will be recommended to have more regular Pap Smears in the future to monitor your specific situation. Ask your healthcare provider which treatment option is best for you.