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What is a pap smear test?

Updated: Feb 7

A Pap smear test is a tool for doctors to help identify abnormalities in the cervix, including cancer. It works by taking sample cells from the cervix. The test will indicate if there are abnormal cells present and help detect any early changes in the cervix cells; presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV); and the presence of cancer. It is a routine diagnostic tool that can help with early prevention and necessary treatment. 

If you want to speak to a healthcare professional or book a Pap smear check up

Who should have a Pap smear? 

In accordance with the Department of Health’s guidelines, generally, a woman’s first Pap smear should be done 3 years after the first vaginal intercourse.

  • After that, it should be done every year for 3 years.

  • If the Pap smear test is negative for the consecutive 3 years, then it can be done every two or three years.

  • Best to consult with your doctor to determine the frequency of your testing, based on our unique circumstances. You and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of Pap smears and decide what's best for you based on your risk factors.

What happens during a Pap smear? 

A doctor usually carries out a Pap smear during a gynecological pelvic exam. They insert a tool called a speculum into the vagina so that they can examine the cervix. Then, they take a sample of cervical cells using a brush or spatula and send them for testing.

If possible, it is best to avoid having a Pap smear during a menstrual period, especially if the flow is heavy, as this can affect the results of the test. However, if a person only has the chance to have the test during menstruation, it is still better to attend than not.

A person should not douche or put anything in the vagina to clean it before the test. Doctors do not recommend douching at any time.

Some practical tips! 

  • If you have a heavy period, try to reschedule having a pap smear test, as this may affect the rests. But do not forget to make it to your next test, don’t miss it. 

  • Do not douche 

  • The tool used, the speculum, is a bit cold and can be uncomfortable. Lie back and relax.

When will I get my results? 

Results usually come back after a few days. Here is some additional information to help you understand the results of the test: 


In most Pap smears, the result is normal and does not reveal any abnormal cells.


Sometimes the result is ambiguous. The doctor may ask the person to have more tests to monitor for any changes. These additional tests are likely to take place either soon after the first test or about 6 months later.


Sometimes the result is “abnormal.” The doctor may recommend more tests straight away, including a colposcopy, or after 6 months depending on the extent of the cell changes.

Schedule your PAP smear test with us!

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