How To Prepare continued...
If you have had problems with pelvic exams in the past or
have experienced rape or sexual abuse, talk to your doctor about
your concerns or fears before the exam.
No other special
preparations are needed before having a Pap test. For your own comfort, you may
want to empty your bladder before the exam.
Tell your doctor whether you have had an
abnormal Pap test in the past.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its risks, how
it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
You will need to take off your clothes
below the waist and drape a paper or cloth covering around your waist. You will
then lie on your back on an examination table with your feet raised and
supported by footrests. This allows the doctor to examine your
external genital area, vagina, and cervix. You may want to wear socks to keep
your feet warm while they are in the footrests.
The doctor will insert a lubricated
speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads
apart the vaginal walls, allowing the inside of the vagina and the cervix to be
Your doctor will collect several samples of
cells from your cervix using a cotton swab, brush (cytobrush or cervix brush),
or a small spatula. Cells are collected from the visible part of the cervix as
well as from its opening (endocervical canal). In women who do not have a
cervix, cells from the vagina are collected if a Pap test is needed. The cells
are smeared on a slide or mixed in a liquid fixative and sent to a lab for
examination under a microscope.
How It Feels
You will feel more comfortable during your
Pap test if you and the doctor are relaxed. Breathing deeply and
having a light conversation with your doctor may help you relax.
Holding your breath or tensing your muscles will increase your
You may feel some discomfort when the speculum is
inserted, especially if your vagina is irritated, tender, or narrow. You may
also feel pulling or pressure when the sample of cervical cells is being