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Cervical Cancer Screening

In order to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, doctors recommend that women have regular Pap tests. A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear or a cervical smear, is a simple tool used to screen for cervical cancer. Pap tests are important because they can find cervical cancer or abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.

An Introduction to Screening for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer screening is very important because it can help doctors find abnormal cells before cancer develops. Finding and treating abnormal cells can prevent most cervical cancer. The number of women who are diagnosed each year has been decreasing for the past several decades. Doctors believe that this decrease is directly related to the success of screening for cervical cancer.
 

Pap Tests as Cervical Cancer Screening

In order to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, doctors recommend that women have regular Pap tests. A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear or cervical smear, is a simple test that is used to look at cervical cells.
 
For most women, this test is not painful. A Pap test is done in a doctor's office or clinic during a pelvic exam. The doctor or nurse scrapes a sample of cells from the cervix, and then smears the cells on a glass slide. In a new type of Pap test (liquid-based Pap test), the cells are rinsed into a small container of liquid. A special machine puts the cells onto slides.
 
For both types of Pap tests, a lab checks the cells under a microscope for abnormalities.
 
Some activities can hide abnormal cells and affect Pap test results. Doctors recommend that women:
 
  • Do not douche for 48 hours before the test
  • Do not have sexual intercourse for 48 hours before the test
  • Do not use vaginal medicines (except as directed by a doctor)
  • Do not use birth control foams, creams, or jellies for 48 hours before the test.
 
Doctors also recommend that women schedule their Pap test 10 to 20 days after the first day of their menstrual period.
 
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