M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: January 2009
Duration: 0 / 03:18
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The following is a presentation from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Helen Rhodes, associate professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Gynecologic Oncology answers the most common questions to help you get ready for your next Pap test.
A woman should prepare for her Pap test by avoiding anything in the vagina for one to three days prior to going to the doctor. Things like douches, intercourse, tub baths, tampons or any medications in the vagina could interfere with the Pap smear results by altering the way the cells look under the microscope to the pathologist. Really, the only thing that might affect the results of your Pap test is a medication that's used in the vagina. Like a medication for a yeast infection or douching or anything of that nature. Birth control pills do not affect the results of your Pap test. It's very important to let your doctor know if you've had a Pap test that was abnormal in the past, and the reason is, women who've had a previously abnormal Pap test are at risk for having the abnormality on their current test and so that would be important for the doctor to know. They can alert the pathologist who is reading the current Pap test results as to your increased risk of having another abnormality. You should absolutely have a Pap test if you're currently pregnant or planning pregnancy in the near future. The Pap test is a screening tool for cancer of the cervix and dysplasia of the cervix. Both of which can happen even when you're pregnant. So even during pregnancy it's important to maintain regular screening tests like the Pap test. There isn't any risk to the pregnancy when you have a Pap test. You may have extra bleeding after your Pap test, but there's no harm to the baby. Once a woman has been evaluated by her doctor while she's on her period, the doctor may choose not to do the Pap test because her flow is heavy. But if her flow is light the doctor may choose to go ahead and do the Pap test because the results can be obtained with a new liquid-based cytology. Prior to your Pap test, most patients will be much more comfortable if they empty their bladder. You don't have to have an empty bladder in order for the test to be accurate, but it's recommended surely for patient comfort. The current screening recommendations are for a woman to have her first Pap test by the age of 21 or within the first three years after her first intercourse experience, whichever comes first. In terms of getting ready for this first test, I recommend that patients go to a reputable Web site to prepare themselves for what will happen at the time of the examination. If a woman is not sexually active by the time she goes to college, I feel very strong in that she should still visit a woman's health care provider, just to talk and discuss women's health care issues.
For more information on how to prepare for your Pap test, review the cervical cancer screening Pap and HPV testing document on the Focused on Health Web site at mdanderson.org/focused.
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