A pap test or pap smear is used to detect changes in the cervix.
- A collection of cells is taken from the cervix and examined under a microscope. The main aim of the pap test is to detect cell abnormalities so that they can be treated early reducing the risk of cancer developing.
- Pap tests are recommended to all women once they become sexually active. It is advised that women have a pap test every two years. This is to ensure that if irregular cells are detected, treatment can be undertaken immediately.
- Pap tests are not designed to pick up abnormalities in the ovaries or uterus.
How is it performed?
- The practitioner will insert a small instrument called a speculum into your vagina. This is used to hold the walls of the vagina open.
- A small, soft brush is used to gently scrape the cells around the opening of the cervix.
- These cells are then taken to a laboratory and looked at under a microscope.
This should take no longer than a few minutes. It is not painful but it can feel uncomfortable.
Approximately one in ten pap tests will show some abnormality. These are mostly minor problems and nothing to cause alarm.
However it is important to follow up with your doctor if something unusual is detected. You may be required to undertake further tests or have pap tests on a more regular basis.
Where can I have a pap test?
- At your nearest GP
- A Women's Health Clinic
- A Family Planning Clinic