Pap Smear

The Pap smear: Who needs a Pap test and why?

A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is an effective tool for early detection of abnormal cells in the cervix. During a pelvic exam, a small brush is used to collect cells from a woman’s cervix. This simple test takes only one to two minutes, but saves thousands of lives every year.

Early detection truly makes a difference because it typically takes three to seven years for highly abnormal cells to become cervical cancer. Our San Antonio OBGYNs explain that when found in early stages, these cells can be treated to prevent cancer from developing. A woman whose Pap test indicates abnormal cells will be monitored to see if the cells return to normal or require treatment.

Who should get screened?

A woman’s age and family history determine how often she should have this test.

At age 21, women should begin having this test every three years through age 65. If you’ve had abnormal results in the past, the doctor may continue screening after age 65.

Your OBGYN may recommend more frequent Pap smears in certain cases.

  • Previous Pap tests with abnormal results
  • A history of cervical cancer
  • HIV infection
  • A weakened immune system
  • Exposure to the medication diethylstilbestrol (DES) prior to birth
  • A history of smoking

Before your Pap test

There are a few steps you can take to ensure more accurate test results. For two days before your screening, there are several things you should avoid.

  • Intercourse
  • Vaginal medication
  • Spermicidal foam
  • Douching

At the appointment

The Pap smear is a quick, simple screening that typically occurs during a pelvic exam. A small brush is used to collect cells from your cervix. The cells are then checked under a microscope for abnormal cells that could develop into cervical cancer. The Pap test also can identify infections and inflammation.

Let your doctor know if you had sex before your appointment. Also, make your doctor aware if you are on your period.

After the Pap smear

Our San Antonio OBGYNs office will notify you of your test results, typically one to two weeks after your screening. If the test results are normal, you will continue on the same screening schedule provided by your doctor.

If the results are abnormal, your OBGYN will recommend a plan for further testing or treatment. Many women have tests that indicate abnormal cells that are benign and resolve on their own. However, it is important to follow up with your OBGYN because early detection and treatment help ensure the abnormal cells do not develop into cervical cancer.

Annual visits to the OBGYN and regular Pap smears are an essential part of a woman’s preventive care. To learn more about this test, cervical cancer risks, or to schedule a screening, contact our San Antonio OBGYNS. Do not put off scheduling this life-saving screening.