The Pap Test

The Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear or cervical cytology screening, was named for George Papanicolaou, the doctor who designed the test, and it is a simple test to look at cells taken from the cervix. Since the Pap test was developed, more than 50 years ago, it has greatly reduced the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer in the United States.

The Pap test is used to find changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. Once these changes are treated, cervical cancer can almost always be prevented. Most women should have Pap tests on a regular basis because it can help find problems early-on, and treatment can be started before cervical disease becomes serious.

Please note that you should still have an annual examination for breast cancer screening and an annual pelvic examination for ovarian cancer screening.

How to Prepare

  • Do not use douches, tampons, vaginal medications, or vaginal sprays or powders for at least 24 hours before having a Pap test
  • Schedule the test for a time when you are not having your menstrual period, because the presence of blood cells may interfere with test results.
  • The best time to schedule the test is during the early part of your menstrual cycle, 8 to 12 days from the start of your last menstrual period.