The Pap test (also called a Pap smear) is a screening test for cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The test can help your doctor find early changes in the cells that could lead to cancer.
During the test, the doctor or nurse will insert a tool called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls. That allows your doctor to see inside the vagina and the cervix. He or she uses a cotton swab or brush to collect cell samples from your cervix.
Try to schedule the test when you're not having your period. To get ready for a Pap test, avoid douches, tampons, vaginal medicines, sprays, or powders for at least a day before you have the test.
Guidelines for when to start having Pap tests and how often have them vary from province to province. Talk with your doctor about how often you need to have a Pap test.
Below are examples of screening recommendations from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and the Public Health Agency of Canada. These recommendations are different from each other. These screening recommendations may not be used in your area.
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Healthcare recommends:
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends:
These recommendations do not apply to women who have had a serious abnormal Pap test result or who have certain health problems. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested.
Having the HPV vaccine does not change your need for Pap tests. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should follow the same Pap test schedule as women who have not had the vaccine.
If your area is not listed, go to www.cancerview.ca and select "Prevention and Screening." Some areas don't have cervical cancer screening program webpages, or programs may be in development. Talk with your doctor about when and how often to have Pap tests for cervical cancer screening.
The sample of cells taken during your test will be sent to a lab so that an expert can look at the cells. It usually takes a week or two to get the results back.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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