The Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is a screening test that helps clinicians detect cellular changes in the cervix (the opening to the uterus, or womb at the end of the vagina). The Pap test includes taking a sample of cells by wiping or scraping a small wooden stick (similar to a tongue depressor) over the cervix. The cells are then put on a glass slide and examined by laboratory personnel to look for changes that might warrant further investigation. During the Pap test you will feel the swab being scraped across the cervix; this feels somewhat scratchy, but is not painful.
It is important to understand that the Pap test is a screening test only. Clinicians do not base treatments on the Pap test alone, but use it to determine whether further diagnosic tests are needed. The reason a Pap test is done is to detect changes before they can become cancer. If your Pap test is abnormal, do not be alarmed. Many women incorrectly believe that an abnormal Pap test means that they have cancer. In fact, the cause of 90% of cervical cell changes is a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Most conditions detected by an abnormal Pap test are minor and easily treated in the office.
A Pap test can save your life. It can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer - a common cancer in women. If caught early, the chance of curing cervical cancer is very high. Pap tests also can find infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells. Treatment can prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.
Your first Pap test should be given within 3 years of the onset of sexual activity, or at age 21, whichever is sooner, and should be continued yearly until age 30 - 35. Then, if the past 3 annual tests have been normal, tests may be given every 2-3 years (except for high-risk patients who should continue yearly tests, or if yearly tests are recommended by your health care provider).
Who is a High Risk patient?
High risk patients
Preparing for your Pap test
Try to schedule your Pap test for the middle of your menstrual cycle – between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your period.
48 hours before your Pap test:
24 hours before your Pap test:
What does the Pap Test detect?
The Pap test is used to detect several cellular abnormalities within the cervix.
Paying for your Pap Test
If you have questions regarding insurance coverage of your Pap test you should contact your insurance carrier prior to your appointment. Filing an insurance claim for treatment and laboratory services is the responsibility of the student. Student Health Service does provide students with itemized statements for filing with their health insurance plans. These are available upon request, usually 7-10 days after the date of service. Contact your health insurance company for specific directions on how to file a claim
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