Two tests are used for screenings: the Pap test (or smear) and the HPV test. A Pap test is a test of cells of the cervix. You’ll spread your legs, and your doctor will insert a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina. Whether you or someone you love has cancer, knowing what to expect can help you cope. Heavy bleeding can affect the accuracy of the test. But it’s possible that the test may miss some abnormal cells or cervical cancers (false negative). There are two types of tests: the Pap test and the HPV test. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers and donors. If you do so, then you can be tested every 5 years instead. A Pap test is needed to find early cervical cancer or pre-cancers so ask your doctor if you had a Pap test with your pelvic exam. Your doctor will be able to see them through the lens on the colposcope. In low-grade SIL (LSIL) the cells look mildly abnormal. They’ll place them into a liquid substance in a small jar, and send them to a lab for review. The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. The cervix is the opening to the uterus and is located at the top of the vagina.Screening includes cervical cytology (also called the Pap test or Pap smear) and, for some women, testing for … A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is an exam a doctor uses to test for cervical cancer in women. 2019. https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/hp/cervical-treatment-pdq. Help make it a reality. How often you do depends on your overall health and whether or not you’ve had an abnormal Pap smear in the past. Don’t insert anything into the vagina, including tampons. Cervical cancer screening is usually part of a woman's health checkup. A negative result is a good thing. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019. An HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. You can help reduce your risk of cancer by making healthy choices like eating right, staying active and not smoking. Until we do, we’ll be funding and conducting research, sharing expert information, supporting patients, and spreading the word about prevention. The test is looking for cervical dysplasia—cells that are not yet cancerous but have the potential to be. American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of cervical cancer screening. You may choose to combine your Pap testing with being tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV) starting at age 30. Why was your Pap smear test painful? Although the Pap test has been more successful than any other screening test in preventing a cancer, it’s not perfect. Cancer.org is provided courtesy of the Leo and Gloria Rosen family. You’ll lie on a table with your feet placed firmly in stirrups. The HPV test looks for human papillomavirus (HPV).The virus can cause cell changes that lead to cervical cancer. Eifel P, Klopp AH, Berek JS, and Konstantinopoulos A. It can also reveal changes in your cervical cells that may turn into cancer later. Other names for the Pap test are Pap smear, cervical cytology, and liquid-based cytology. They are also more likely to eventually develop into cancer if they are not treated. A Pap smear is considered a safe procedure. The American Cancer Society is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. If your screening tests are abnormal, your doctor may do more tests, suc… Various bacterial, fungal, and viral infections of the uterus may also be detected using this test. We’ve invested more than $4.9 billion in cancer research since 1946, all to find more – and better – treatments, uncover factors that may cause cancer, and improve cancer patients’ quality of life. © 2021 American Cancer Society, Inc. All rights reserved. This might also be called mild dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 1 (CIN1). All rights reserved. ). Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. (Pap is a shortened version of Dr. George Papanicolaou, the doctor who developed the screening test.) A Pap smear is a microscopic examination of cells taken from the uterine cervix. Tax ID Number: 13-1788491. They’ll come back either negative (normal) or positive (abnormal). Pelvic exams may help find other types of cancers and reproductive problems. Pap tests find abnormal cell changes in your cervix. The Pap test is a procedure that collects cells from the cervix so that they can be looked at closely in the lab to find cancer and pre-cancer. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy. WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Available Every Minute of Every Day. For both, the doctor or nurse collects cells from the surface of the cervix. The Pap smear (cytology) is the only test that has been used in large populations and that has been shown to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality. Sometimes cervical cells become abnormal over time as they die and then renew. Atypical squamous cells of uncertain significance (ASC-US) is used to describe when there are cells that look abnormal, but it is not possible to tell if this is caused by infection, irritation, or a pre-cancer. Your doctor will get them within a few days. Don’t rinse the vagina with water, vinegar, or other fluid (douche). Together, we’re making a difference – and you can, too. Squamous cell carcinoma: This result means that the woman is likely to have an invasive cancer. For many years, cytology -based screening, known as the Pap test or Pap smear, was the only method of screening. Don't use tampons, birth-control foams or jellies, other vaginal creams, moisturizers, or lubricants, or vaginal medicines for 2 to 3 days before the Pap test. What does it take to outsmart cancer? PubMed Health: “Papanicolaou Test (Pap Smear).”, CDC: “Genital HPV Infection -- Fact Sheet,” “What Should I Know About Cervical Cancer Screening?”, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Cervical Cancer Screening.”, Office of Population Affairs: “Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Test).”. How often you get a Pap test depends on your age, medical history, and the results of your last Pap or HPV tests. Cervical cancer or a Pap test that revealed precancerous cells, Having been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth. It tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on your cervix. There are a few reasons you might have had a painful smear test. Adenocarcinoma: Cancers of the glandular cells are called adenocarcinomas. Inflammation can happen if you’ve had sex or used a diaphragm shortly before having a Pap smear. It can sometimes lead to cancer. You shouldn’t have a Pap smear during your period. Most of the time, cells labeled ASC-US are not pre-cancer, but more testing, like an HPV test, is needed to be sure. Routine screening is recommended every three years for women ages 21 to 65. Until December 2017, the Pap smear was the routine test given to women aged 18 to 69, every 2 years, to help prevent cervical cancer. The HPV test can be used alone (primary HPV test) or at the same time as the Pap test (called a co-test). Its use reduced cervical cancer incidence and deaths in countries where screening is common. 11th ed. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it’s linked to cervical cancer. They’ll send the sample to a lab for further testing. The guidelines generally advise a reduction in the number of tests women get over their lifetime to better ensure that they receive the benefits of testing while minimizing the harms, and include a preference for co-testing using the Pap test and HPV test for women age ages 30 to 65. Your doctor will use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix. The speculum is a metal or plastic instrument that keeps the vagina open so that the cervix can be seen clearly. If you have inflammation or minor cell changes, your doctor may take a “wait and see” approach. The cells collected in a Pap smear can detect if you have cervical cancer or suspicious cells that indicate you may develop cervical cancer. 6th ed. The samples are then looked at in the lab. Become a volunteer, make a tax-deductible donation, or participate in a fundraising event to help us save lives. Cancer Information, Answers, and Hope. A Pap smear is a simple, quick, and essentially painless screening test (procedure) for cancer or precancer of the uterine cervix. Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing. National Cancer Institute. 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