Dr. Jyoti Kala

Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Book Appointment

Subscribe to our blogs

Reviewed by

Dr. Jyoti Kala

Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Manipal Hospitals, Sarjapur Road

Pap Smear: The Basics You Need To Know

Reviewed by:

Dr. Jyoti Kala

Posted On: Jan 25, 2024

blogs read 3 Min Read

Pap Smear: The Basics You Need to Know

The Pap smear is a reliable means of detecting cervical cancer. It can quickly identify cervix-related issues at an early stage. This, in turn, helps you in preventing cervical cancer. Doctors collect your cervical cells for testing purposes. You should go for a Pap test at regular intervals. This is because of the following two reasons:

  • New cervix cells regularly replace the old cells
  • A Pap smear is not 100% accurate

The faster the abnormalities are detected, the more effective the treatment will be. This will also eliminate the need for complex interventions.



Recommended Frequency for Pap Smear

It is recommended that sexually active women between the ages of 21 and 65 undergo a Pap test every three years to ensure proper reproductive and post-reproductive health. However, this interval can be adjusted by an experienced medical professional depending on individual health concerns.

In addition to a Pap smear, doctors may suggest HPV DNA co-testing for comprehensive screening purposes, which typically requires follow-up appointments once every five years. If any abnormalities are detected during testing procedures, your doctor may advise scheduling repeat tests at more frequent intervals as necessary. Also, if you develop any new symptoms like: 

  • Unexpected bleeding
  • Bleeding following sexual contact 
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

Pap Smear Procedure

A Pap smear is a simple test done by your gynaecologist or a qualified nurse in the OPD setting. The following steps are included in the pap smear test procedure:

  1. You lie down straight on the examination table.
  2. A speculum is inserted into your vagina.
  3. Some cervical cells are collected with a small brush. 

Things to Remember before the test:

  • Avoid engaging in physical intimacy for 24 hours before the test
  • Avoid vaginal douching or vaginal medications 2 days before the test
  • Pap smear during periods can lead to inaccurate results

The whole process takes just a few minutes. It might be slightly uncomfortable but not painful. The sample taken is then sent to the lab for testing.

Interpretation of Pap Smear Results

Pap smear tests often show certain changes in the cervical cells. These changes might be mostly benign and would heal eventually. The reasons behind these abnormalities can either be infections or other non-cancerous conditions. So, please don’t get alarmed by the results and talk to an experienced gynaecologist to interpret the report accurately. Your doctor will advise if further testing or repeat testing is required. In some cases, your doctor may refer you for a colposcopy.

What Is Colposcopy?

A Pap test may require further testing if it reveals certain early cell changes. In these cases, a colonoscopy-guided biopsy may be advised. 
A colposcope is a magnifying glass-like instrument that can provide a closer view of your cervix. This ensures better visualisation of any abnormal changes, especially any subtle changes. 

Colposcopy Procedure

A long swab containing a liquid (a weak vinegar-acetic acid) is applied to the cervix to visualise the abnormal areas through the colposcope. Following this, an iodine solution is used for better visualisation. This allows the doctors to assess the nature of the changes. A biopsy will be taken from the cervix during the same sitting and sent to the lab for examination. The entire procedure may take around 15 to 30 minutes. It’s normally not painful, and you can return to your work within a few hours after the colposcopy. Post-colposcopy effects may include: 

  • Minor cramps for a day 
  • Slightly altered vaginal bleeding for a few days

Consult your doctor immediately if you experience heavy bleeding or foul-smelling vaginal discharge post-procedure. 

Interpretation of Colposcopy Results

It is important to talk to your doctor to understand the intricacies of your colposcopy reports. They can guide you through the specifics and plan proper treatment methods. If required, you may also be asked to go for further testing.

When Can You Stop Pap Smear?

There are certain situations when you can decide to stop with a Pap smear.

  1. If your uterus, including the cervix, is surgically removed. However, you will need to consult your doctor about this condition. If the surgery was performed because of a precancerous or cancerous issue, stopping this test may be reconsidered. 
  2. Women over the age of 65 may stop the test. This is especially applicable if your previous test reports have been negative.

No matter what, it is critical to discuss your options with your doctor before finalising any decision or getting a pap smear test. Only they can guide you properly. Consult the top obstetrician and gynaecologist at Manipal Hospital, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore, to maintain optimal cervical health.


Sexually active persons aged between 21 and 65 should go for a Pap smear once every 3 years. In the case of HPV DNA co-testing, the screening may be required once every 5 years. Your doctor will suggest the right intervals, depending on your health.

Yes, you need to avoid the below-mentioned factors before the test:
Sexual activity
Vaginal douching
Using vaginal medicines
Otherwise, the reports may not be accurate.

Colposcopy is usually not a painful procedure. However, you may feel a mild discomfort. There might be a brief stinging sensation, too.

Share this article on:

Subscribe to our blogs

Thank You Image

Thank you for subscribing to our blogs.
You will be notified when we upload a new blog