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DPH Home > Programs & Services > Clinic Operations Services > Cervical Cancer Screening
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Cervical Cancer Screening

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a short, painless procedure that is used to detect cancerous
or precancerous conditions of the cervix. The examiner gathers some cells from the cervix and then smears them on a slide. This slide is then sent to a laboratory where it is examined under the microscope to search for abnormal cells and any STI’S. It is an important tool in preventing cervical cancer and detecting any STI’s.

Who should get a Pap smear?

Women should get a baseline Pap test approximately three years after intercourse or by age 21, which ever comes first. After 21, and up to 30 years of age a woman should get an annual Pap smear. How often a women should get a Pap test depends on age, sexual activity and Pap test results. To be sure when to get your Pap test, talk to your doctor or clinician.

Can certain Sexually Transmitted Infections lead to cervical cancer?

Yes, Certain types of HPV (human papillomarivus), the virus that causes genital warts, have been associated with a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. HPV is very common but most people don't know they have it. It is passed during sex from the genital skin of one person to the genital skin of another. There are more than 70 different types of HPV. Some types cause genital warts that you can see. Some types cause cell change on the cervix that might lead to cervical cancer.

What can be done to prevent cervical cancer?

Postponing sexual intercourse until later in life, limiting the number of sexual partners, and using protection, such as condoms, against sexually transmitted diseases, may reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer. It is also very important to get a Pap smear regularly.

How to prepare for your Pap smear

bullet Make your appointment for a day you will not be having your period.
bullet Do not have sex for 2 days before your Pap smear.
bullet Do not use douches, vaginal creams, foams, gels or tampons for 2 days before your Pap smear.

What does that mean if I get an abnormal PAP smear result?

You will need more tests and treatment, or have more frequent follow-up Pap smears, depending on the result of the Pap smear. It is very important that you follow the recommendations of your doctor or clinician.
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