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5 Things You Should Know About Pap Tests

Posted on June 4, 2018 by MPWH

Most women are familiar with routine pap tests, but there are many things you might not know about pap tests. In the last several years, recommendations for pap tests have changed, so it’s important to stay up to date.

1. The Basics: What Is a Pap Test?

A physician or other healthcare practitioner performs a pap test by taking a sample of cells in the cervix with a brush. Then, the cells are examined with a microscope. The person examining the cells will look for abnormalities that could be indicative of cancer if left untreated.

2. How is a Pap Test Different Than a Pelvic Exam?

A pap test (described above), is a swab of the cervix. A pelvic exam takes place when a physician or other healthcare practitioner places one finger inside of the vagina to examine the internal reproductive organs (such as the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries, and uterus). The provider’s opposite hand may assist with external palpation.

3. Who Needs to Have a Pap Test?

Women under the age of 21 do not need to have a pap test, even if they are sexually active. Women ages 21 to 65 should have pap tests (with or without an HPV test) based on age, medical history, and risks. Ask your provider how often you should have a pap test.

4. Are Pap Tests Required for Birth Control?

Patients who are interested in obtaining birth control pills must meet with their healthcare provider to review their health history and discuss potential side effects. However, a pelvic exam or pap test is not usually necessary to receive a prescription.

5. Which Tests Are Important to Stay Healthy?

Depending on your health history, you may need different tests and exams to ensure your female reproductive health. Always share your personal and family health history with your doctor, who will recommend appropriate testing. Your provider will explain to you the recommended schedule of pap/HPV tests based on your age, medical history, and other risk factors. Always follow your doctor’s advice regarding pap tests if you have known risk factors for cervical cancer.

If you have a question about pap tests or your test results, please contact us.