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Best Time to Have a Pap Smear

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Updated August 09, 2010

Question: Best Time to Have a Pap Smear
When is the best time in a woman's cycle to have a Pap smear?
Answer: It is ideal to have a Pap smear done 10-20 days after the start of your last period. It is not recommended to plan your Pap smear during a period. Menstrual fluid and blood may make it difficult for the pathologist to interpret results. However, if the flow is light, some doctors will perform a Pap smear. Newer, liquid based Pap smears can separate cervical cells from mucus and blood, allowing a more accurate reading.

If you have started your period unexpectedly or find you have scheduled your Pap during a time when you may have your period, call your doctor's office. Ask to speak to a nurse or the doctor and inform them that your Pap smear will coincide with your period. You may be asked to reschedule, or be told to keep your appointment. In that case, the doctor will most likely check to see if the flow is light enough to proceed with the test.

It is also suggested that women avoid having anything in the vagina 24-48 hours prior to a Pap smear. This includes:
  • sexual intercourse
  • spermicides, foams, or jellies
  • douching
  • vaginal inserts
  • tampons


All of these things can make it difficult for the pathologist to accurately interpret results. But most important, don't avoid having the test done; it's better to have a Pap smear at a less-than-optimal time than not at all.

Resources:

"The Pap Test Questions and Answers." Dec 2003. National Cancer Institute.

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