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Pap Smear (cont.)

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How is a Pap smear done?

A woman should have a Pap smear when she is not menstruating. The best time for screening is between 10 and 20 days after the first day of her menstrual period. For about two days before testing, a woman should avoid douching or using spermicidal foams, creams, or jellies or vaginal medicines (except as directed by a physician). These agents may wash away or hide any abnormal cervical cells.

A Pap smear can be done in a doctor's office, a clinic, or a hospital by either a physician or other specially trained health care professional, such as a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner, or a nurse midwife.

  • With the woman positioned on her back, the clinician will often first examine the outside of the patient's genital and rectal areas, including the urethra (the opening where urine leaves the body), to assure that they look normal.
  • A speculum is then inserted into the vaginal area (the birth canal). (A speculum is an instrument that allows the vagina and the cervix to be viewed and examined.)
  • A cotton swab is sometimes used to clear away mucus that might interfere with an optimal sample.
  • A small brush called a cervical brush is then inserted into the opening of the cervix (the cervical os) and twirled around to collect a sample of cells. Because this sample comes from inside the cervix, is called the endocervical sample ("endo" meaning inside).
  • A second sample is also collected as part of the Pap smear and is called the ectocervical sample ("ecto" meaning outside).
  • These cells are collected from a scraping of the area surrounding, but not entering, the cervical os.
  • Both the endocervical and the ectocervical samples are gently smeared on a glass slide and a fixative (a preservative) is used to prepare the cells on the slide for laboratory evaluation.

A bimanual (both hands) pelvic exam usually follows the collection of the two samples for the Pap smear. The bimanual examination involves the physician or health care practitioner inserting two fingers of one hand inside the vaginal canal while feeling the ovaries and uterus with the other hand on top of the abdomen (belly).

The results of the Pap smear are usually available within one to two weeks. At the end of Pap smear testing, each woman should ask how she should expect to be informed about the results of her Pap smear. If a woman has not learned of her results after a month, she should contact her health care practitioner's office.

What are the risks of having a Pap smear?

There are absolutely no known medical risks associated with Pap smear screening. (However, there are medical risks from not having a Pap smear.)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/21/2014

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Pap Smear - Results Question: What was the outcome of your abnormal Pap smear results?
Pap Smear - Testing Question: How often do you get a Pap smear?
Pap Smear - Indications Question: Do you have a regular pap smear? Have they revealed any abnormalities?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/pap_smear/article.htm

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