Pap Smear & Colposcopy Procedures

Pap Smear and Colposcopy Procedures tab


What is a pap smear and a colposcopy?

A Pap smear is an exam a doctor uses to test for cervical cancer in women. It can also reveal changes in your cervical cells that may turn into cancer later. A colposcopy is a simple procedure that lets your doctor get a good look at your cervix. The exam takes 5 to 10 minutes, and is a lot like getting a Pap smear. One of the biggest differences is your doctor uses a special magnifying instrument called a colposcope.

Q: Why should you get a pap smear or colposcopy?

A: A pap test can detect cervical cancer or suspicious cells that may turn into cancer in the future.
If your doctor has reason to believe something may not be quite right with your cervix, they might recommend a colposcopy. Some of these reasons might include:

  • Your Pap results were abnormal.

  • Your cervix looks abnormal during a pelvic exam.

  • Tests show you have the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

  • You have unexplained bleeding or other problems.

Your doctor can use a colposcopy to diagnose cervical cancer, genital warts, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer, as well. Once your doctor gets the results from your colposcopy, they’ll know whether or not you need further testing.

Q: How often should you get a pap test?

A: Doctors recommend you begin Pap testing at age 21. You should have the test every 3 years from age 21 to 65. You may choose to combine your Pap testing with being tested for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) starting at age 30. If you do so, then you can be tested every five years instead. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it’s linked to cervical cancer.

If you have certain health concerns, your doctor may recommend you have a Pap more often.

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