Health One Family Medicine

Pap Smear: Everything You Need To Know 

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. It affects approximately 600,000 women each year worldwide and kills nearly 300,000. It is most common in middle-aged women between the ages of 35 and 44. Luckily, a Pap smear test can be used to detect cell changes on the cervix that might lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

What’s a Pap Smear Test?

A Pap smear is simply an exam that a healthcare provider uses to test for cervical cancer in women. It can unveil changes in the cervical cells that may turn cancerous later. The primary purpose of a Pap smear is to look for these changes in cervical cells. If unfortunately, you have cervical cancer, finding it early on with the help of a Pap smear will give you the best chance of fighting it. Even if you don’t have cervical cancer, finding changes in cells early on can prevent them from developing into cancerous cells.

The Pap Smear Procedure

The Pap smear procedure is pretty simple.

Your healthcare provider will ask you to come into their clinic or office. The test will take about 10 to 15 minutes. All you’ll have to do is lie down on a table with both your feet firmly put in stirrups. You’ll be asked to spread your legs so your healthcare provider can insert a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina. They will open the tool, so it widens your vaginal walls and allows them to take a closer look at your cervix.

Then, your healthcare provider will use a swab to collect a cell sample from your cervix and place the sample into a small jar containing a liquid substance. They will then send the jar to the lab for review.

How Often Should One Have a Pap Smear?

All women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a Pap smear test every three years. If you have preexisting health conditions, your doctor may recommend a Pap test more often. Some of these conditions include:

  • Cervical cancer
  • HIV infection
  • A previous Pap test that showed precancerous cells
  • A weakened immune system
  • Diethylstilbestrol exposure before birth

Pap Test Risks

Ensure that you discuss any concerns or conditions with your healthcare provider before the Pap smear procedure. Tell your healthcare provider if you are or might be pregnant. If you are allergic or sensitive to latex, let them know. 

Certain things may interfere with a Pap test. These include:

  • Infections
  • Menstruation
  • Sex, 24 hours before the procedure that causes tissue inflammation
  • Certain medications
  • Use of vaginal creams, jellies, foams, or medicines for two to three days before the test
  • Vagina irrigation two to three days before the test

If you fit the criteria for getting a Pap smear test, schedule one with a provider at Health One Family Medicine today. To make an appointment with our certified healthcare providers, visit or call (469)262-5762.

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