Pap tests – your questions answered

July 15, 2003

What is a Pap Test and how is it done?

The Pap test is a quick and simple test used to screen women for changes to the cells of the cervix (the lower, narrow end of the uterus). These changes, if left untreated, may lead to cervical cancer. Early detection of these cell changes means they can be easily and successfully treated.A Pap test is a safe and painless test that is performed by a doctor or nurse practitioner. To do the test, a sample of cells is taken from in and around the cervix using a collection device such as a spatula and/or a small brush. The specimen is placed on a glass slide or is rinsed into a vial of preservative, and sent to a laboratory for microscopic examination.

Can a Pap test detect sexually transmitted diseases too?

Sometimes the Pap test can detect only some sexually transmitted diseases and infections. The Pap test is not designed to detect these infections specifically, so any investigation of symptoms associated with sexually transmitted diseases will require additional testing.

If a ThinPrep Pap test is used, it is possible to test for several of the most common sexually transmitted diseases from the same sample.

Why do I need a Pap test every two years?

Most cases of cervical cancer take up to 10 years to develop. During that period cell changes may be detected using the Pap test. Early detection of these changes means they can be treated with great success.

Sometimes a Pap test may fail to detect the early cell changes. Any changes that are missed on one test will hopefully be detected two years later, before they become a more serious problem.

Using a more accurate Pap test such as the ThinPrep Pap test may lead to earlier detection of any cell changes.

Find out more about ThinPrep

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