Pap Test

Smiling senior couple jogging in the park

Overview

What is a Pap Test?

A Pap test is a procedure done to test for cervical cancer.  Finding the cancer early gives you a greater chance of a cure.  A Pap test can also find abnormal cervical cells that can cause cancer in the future so that you and your doctor can develop a plan to have a Pap test more often to monitor your condition.  Your Saint John’s Physician Partners gynecologist will discuss the frequency of having a Pap test with you, depending on your age, your overall health and whether you’ve had an abnormal test in the past. 

Why

Why is a Pap Test Done?

A Pap test may be recommended as a routine part of your health and wellness checkups.  It may be recommended more often if you have the following risk factors: 

  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth. 
  • Cervical cancer diagnosis. 
  • Pap test showing precancerous cells. 
  • You’ve been diagnosed with HPV, which is linked to increased risks to cervical cancer. 
  • HIV infection. 
  • If you smoke. 
Doctor looking at file with another staff

Risks

Pap Test Risks and Complications

A Pap test is a safe and very accurate procedure.  While the procedure may be uncomfortable, it’s an important part your health and wellness.   

Prep

Preparing for a Pap Test

To have the most accurate Pap test, your doctor will probably recommend the following preparations at least 48 hours before the procedure: 

  • Don’t have intercourse. 
  • Don’t use vaginal medicines, creams or jellies. 
  • Don’t insert tampons into your vagina. 
  • Don’t use powders or sprays near your vagina. 
  • Don’t douche. 
  • Schedule the procedure when you’re not having your period. 
Smiling OGBYN with her patient

What to Expect

What to Expect During a Pap Test

During a Pap Test

A Pap test is done in your doctor’s office and takes only a few minutes.  You’ll lie on your back on the exam table and your doctor will insert a speculum in your vagina so your doctor can clearly see your cervix.  This may cause a feeling of pressure.  Then your doctor will take samples of your cervical cells using a soft brush and a spatula, to be sent to the laboratory for analysis. 

Pap Test Follow-Up

You can return to your normal activities without restrictions after your Pap test.  If your Pap test comes back positive, it doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer, it means your doctor found abnormal cells.  This could be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).  The most common types of abnormal cervical cells are: 

  • Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS), which are thin, flat cells that grow on the surface of a healthy cervix.  This may be caused by HPV and you doctor will test for it. 
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion may be precancerous and your doctor may order more tests to find out if they’re low-grade or high-grade. Low-grade lesions may not become cancer for years, while high-grade lesions may become cancer much earlier. 
  • Atypical glandular cells are cells that make mucus. If they appear abnormal, more testing will be needed to see if it’s cancer. 
  • Squamous cell cancer (adenocarcinoma cells) means that the cells in your cervix are very likely cancer. 

To be certain of your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy and a biopsy. During a colposcopy procedure, your doctor will insert a speculum in your vagina and place a colposcope, which is a magnifying instrument that shines a bright light in your vagina in order to see your cervix.  During the procedure, your doctor can then perform a biopsy to obtain tissue samples for further testing.   

Specialists

Pap Test Specialists

1301 20th St., Suite 270, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 680W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

1301 20th St., Suite 270, Santa Monica, CA 90404

12555 West Jefferson Blvd., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90066

1301 20th St., Suite 270, Santa Monica, CA 90404

1301 20th St., Suite 270, Santa Monica, CA 90404

1301 20th St., Suite 270, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

12555 West Jefferson Blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90066

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404

2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 970W, Santa Monica, CA 90404