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What to Expect During a Pap Smear

Understanding Pap Smear Results

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Updated July 09, 2009

The Pap Smear

The Pap smear is a necessary test that can detect cervical cancer, or changes in cells that could become cancerous. Vital for all women, the Pap smear is performed yearly.

Prior to the test, there are precautions you should take in order for your pap smear to come back accurate. 24 hours prior, do not douche, insert a tampon, have intercourse, or bathe in the tub. These factors can actually produce false abnormalities.

Schedule your pap around your menstrual cycle. During your period, blood and endometrial cells can prohibit the accuracy of the test as well.

Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you are on birth control or are pregnant. This can affect how the test is performed.

What to Expect During a Pap Smear


You will be asked to lay on your back, with feet in stirrups. A speculum (an instrument that opens the vagina) will be inserted vaginally in order to widen the vaginal canal, allowing examination internally. You should not feel any pain, only mild discomfort. Remember, the more relaxed you are, the less discomfort you will feel.

Next, a sample of cells will be taken by the use of a small spatula. Again, you may feel mild discomfort. The cells are then placed in a tube with a preservative, or placed on a slide. They are then sent to a lab for testing. You should receive the results in about two weeks.
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