Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for the test?

Tell your health care provider (1) if you’ve had a prior abnormal Pap smear; (2) if you might be pregnant; and (3) if you are taking any medications, including birth control pills. Avoid douching, using tampons, having intercourse, and tub bathing 24 hours before the test. Empty your bladder just before the test.

What do the results mean?

Results are reported using the Bethesda Classification System

  • Negative for Dysplastic or Malignant Cells (no abnormalities found)
  • Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance or ASCUS (abnormal findings, which may be related to a benign or a precancerous condition; follow-up recommended)
  • Low Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (precancerous condition)
  • High Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (precancerous condition)
  • Carcinoma (malignant lesion)

When should Pap testing begin and how long should it continue?

Screening should begin when a woman becomes sexually active, requests contraception, or reaches the age of 18. Routine Pap tests should then be performed annually, as long as the previous Pap test was normal. Pap test screening should continue through the age of 65, and then may be reduced to once every 3 years as long as there are 2 consecutive Pap tests that were normal, and no other pre-existing risk factors or medical conditions are present.