Don’t Avoid What Can Help You: Pap Smears Explained

A Pap smear is a test that's used to screen women for cervical cancer. The test is carried out by a GP or nurse at your local medical centre and can detect abnormal cervical cells. Women should have a Pap smear every two years, and although you may find the test a little embarrassing you may feel reassured to learn that 90% of cervical cancers can be prevented when abnormal cervical cells are detected early enough. Here's what you need to know:

How To Prepare

As with any test, there are certain factors that can lead to inaccurate results, so it's important take the following recommendations into consideration when scheduling your Pap smear:

  • Tell the doctor or nurse about any medications you are taking as some drugs, such as the birth control pill, can affect the results.
  • Don't have a Pap smear when you are menstruating as blood may affect the accuracy of the results and make it difficult for the cell sample to be analysed.
  • Avoid vaginal medicines, tampons, lubricants and sexual intercourse for a couple of days before the test to prevent any abnormal cells being removed from the top layer of your cervical tissue.

The Procedure

A Pap smear only takes a few minutes and is painless, but some women may feel a slight twinge as the cell samples are being taken. You'll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on an examination table. Next, you'll bend your knees up toward your hips and position your heels in stirrups.

The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina. This is a small instrument that holds your vagina open and allows your doctor to visually examine your cervix. They will then use a small spatula to gently scrape the wall of your cervix and take cervical cell samples.

The samples will be sent to a laboratory for analysis and you should be able to call the medical centre for your results within a few days.


If your Pap smear results are normal you'll be asked to come back for your next test in two years. However, if your results are abnormal your doctor may want to arrange further diagnostic testing. An abnormal result does not mean you have cervical cancer, but it can indicate you are at risk of developing cervical cancer. An abnormal result may also indicate you have a virus or atypical glandular cells that require further investigation.

Your doctor may suggest you have a colposcopy of your results are abnormal. This involves having your cervix and vagina examined with a magnifying instrument, which allows the doctor to get a better understanding of the health of your cervix. They may also take some tissue samples to be analysed.

Pap smears are a quick and painless and can give you peace of mind. If you're last Pap smear was over two years ago, give a medical centre like Medical Centre 291 a call and schedule and appointment.