Pap Smear News

A Pap test, or Pap smear, is a routine medical test for women that involves collecting and testing cells from the cervix for signs of infection or cancer. All women should have Pap tests, but the recommendation for how often varies from woman to woman. In general, Pap tests should be done every two years starting at age 21. After age 30, women may be able to space them to every three years if they've had a history of normal Pap tests. Women may be able to stop having Pap tests after age 65, but this decision should be discussed with their doctor. Women who've had a hysterectomy may also no longer need a Pap test, but some women, such as those with a weakened immune system, may need more frequent Pap tests.

How a Pap Test Is Done

A Pap test is not painful for most women, but it can be uncomfortable. A doctor inserts a tool called a speculum into the vagina to examine the cervix and collect a few cells. These cells are then sent to a laboratory for testing.

Women should avoid sex, douching, tampons, and vaginal creams and other vaginal products for at least two days before a Pap test so as not to affect the results. In addition, it’s best to schedule the test so that it doesn’t occur during a menstrual period.

Importance of the Pap Test

A Pap test is an important tool for detecting cervical cancer early -- and one that can be lifesaving. The survival rate is quite high when cervical cancer is detected and treated early on. Because cervical cancer often shows no outward signs or symptoms at first, testing is critical. Research has shown that a relatively new test for HPV (human papillomavirus) may be equally effective at detecting early signs of cervical cancer, but to date most medical experts still prefer the Pap test.

SOURCES: Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. National Cancer Institute

Date Posted
Article Title
8/21/2018
7/26/2018
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6/5/2018
3/21/2018
11/28/2017
Cervical Cancer Screenings

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8 Ways College Women Can Protect Their Health

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Cancer Deaths Higher in Rural America, CDC Reports

Agency head calls persistent geographic gap a 'significant public health problem'

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Gynecologist offers tips on ways to make it a positive experience

5/18/2017
Too Many Americans Still Go Without Cancer Screenings

Report shows uninsured had lowest rates of mammograms, Pap tests and colonoscopies

2/8/2017
Screening, HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Cervical Cancer: FDA

Agency recommends getting inoculated between 9 and 26 years old

1/24/2017
HPV Vaccine Doesn't Eliminate Need for Pap Test

Women who've been immunized still need the screen every 3 to 5 years, cancer specialists say

10/17/2016
Are Fewer Cervical Cancer Screenings Needed After HPV Vaccine?

Less testing could reduce risk of false positives and save money, researchers say

2/19/2016
Cervical Cancer Can Be Prevented: FDA

Routine screening and vaccination are key to protecting women against the disease, experts say

11/3/2014
'Purpose in Life' a Boon to Your Health

Study found those who felt their life had meaning were more likely to get screening tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms

7/18/2014
HPV Test Beats Pap Smear in Gauging Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Study of over 1 million women suggests it could be stand-alone screening method

6/30/2014
Most Women Don't Need Regular Pelvic Exams, New Guidelines State

Review found no evidence they benefit many women, but cervical cancer screening still needed

2/24/2014
Kids' Checkups Should Include Cholesterol, Depression Tests, Doctors Say

HIV screening also recommended under revised American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines

1/14/2014
Cervical Cancer Screening Found to Benefit Older Women in New Study

Researchers say their results support screening women up to age 65 and beyond

11/4/2013
Screening for HPV May Be Better Than Pap Test, Study Suggests

Screening offered greater protection against cervical cancer three years after either test was given

10/16/2013
How a Routine Pap Smear Ends Up Costing $1,000

Family physician investigated how some of her patients received big bills for common tests

7/9/2013
Many Docs Don't Follow HPV/Pap Test Guidelines: Study

Too few vaccines recommended, and too many cervical cancer tests done, survey finds

4/11/2013
Strides Made in Preventing Cancer, But Challenges Remain: Report

American Cancer Society looked at smoking, obesity, disease screening, tanning and more

4/8/2013
Doctors Too Pap-Happy, Survey Suggests

Cervical cancer screenings recommended more often than needed, researchers find

3/7/2013
New Pap Guidelines May Miss Aggressive Cancer in Young Women: Study

One cancer can cause problems in less than two years, but recommended screening is now every three years

3/3/2013
Ob-Gyn Group Lists Procedures That May Not Be Needed

As part of the 'Choosing Wisely' campaign, ACOG asks docs, patients to question certain practices

1/9/2013
Pap Test Could Spot Some Ovarian Cancers, Study Finds

Widely used to detect cervical cancer, it might be much-needed screening option for other diseases

12/27/2012
U.S. Cancer Screening Rates Dropping: Study

Confusing guidelines, insurance gaps may discourage people from getting recommended testing

10/19/2012
Many Lesbians Not Screened for Cervical Cancer, Study Finds

Improved doctor-patient communication is key to expanding Pap testing, researchers say

7/30/2012
HPV Test Beats Pap Long-Term: Study

Finding lends support to current guidelines combining tests among women over 30

7/24/2012
Medical Group Notes Key Elements of Well-Woman Exams

Find out which screening, tests, counseling should be part of office visit

7/23/2012
Women With HIV May Not Have Higher Cervical Cancer Risk: Study

They had similar Pap, biopsy results to women not infected with virus

7/10/2012
No Dip in Cancer Screening for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Preventive health care is essential for people with chronic diseases, study authors say

4/2/2012
HPV Infection Lasts Longer in Young Black Women: Study

This persistence could explain higher rates of cervical cancer, researchers say

3/14/2012
Most Women Need Pap Test Only Every 3 Years: U.S. Panel

Decreased frequency saves as many lives as annual screenings with half the number of biopsies

3/2/2012
Regular Pap Smear Boosts Cervical Cancer Survival: Study

Screening is important even after HPV vaccine, experts say

1/26/2012
Too Few Americans Getting Screened for Common Cancers: CDC

National targets for breast, cervical and colon malignancies still not being met

12/20/2011
Making Sense of Cancer Screening Updates

It's important to discuss testing schedule with your doctor

8/23/2011
HPV Test Might Be Better Predictor of Cervical Cancer Than Pap Smear

Study found it more effective, particularly among women who were HPV-positive

8/18/2011
Annual Pap Tests Often Ordered But Unneeded: Study

Guidelines say some women can wait three years, but doctors may think otherwise

3/21/2011
Women Should See Ob-Gyn Annually, Experts Say

Obstetrician/gynecologist group urges women to follow its updated recommendations

12/9/2010
U.S. Failing to Meet Goals for Women's Health: Report

Survey gives nation unsatisfactory grade on most measures of well-being

11/24/2010
Too Many Cancers Still Spotted Too Late: CDC

Screening rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers vary greatly among states, report finds

2/18/2010
Screens, Vaccine for HPV Less Beneficial in Older Women

Rate of new infections declined with age, study found

1/19/2010
Should HPV Test Replace the Pap Smear?

Italian researchers urge a change in test for cervical cancer, but U.S. experts are mixed

11/24/2009
Recent Cancer Screening Changes Leave Many Confused

But experts say science is behind reasoning that testing less is OK

11/20/2009
New Pap Test Guidelines: Start Later, Have Fewer

Experts urge first screen at 21, then once every 2 years or more, not annually

11/2/2009
Health Tip: Getting a Pap Test

Who needs one and when

10/27/2009
Old, New Pap Methods Equally Good, Dutch Study Finds

But U.S. expert predicts 'major change' in testing methods in a few years