Normal Pap test
results do not completely rule out the presence of abnormal cells (dysplasia) or
cervical cancer. The test may fail to find abnormal cells when they are present
(false-negative). Having 3 normal Pap tests in a row
reduces the chance of false-negative results. Or the test may show abnormal
cells when they are not present (false-positive). Talk with your doctor
about the meaning of your Pap test results.
liquid-based Pap test method also may be done. For this method, the tools used
to collect the cells from the cervix are washed with a special liquid that is
saved and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. The cells collected
in this way can also be tested for HPV. But studies
show that liquid-based Pap tests may produce more false-positive
A Pap test is not used to screen for sexually transmitted
infections (STIs) or cancer other than cervical cancer. If an STI is suspected,
other specialized testing may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Vaginal self-exam (VSE)
may help you better understand your body, know what is normal for you, and find
early symptoms of infections or other abnormal conditions that might mean you
need to see a doctor. VSE should be used along with (but not
replace) a regular pelvic exam and Pap test done by a doctor. To learn
more, see the topic Vaginal Self-Examination (VSE).
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2012). Screening for cervical cancer. ACOG Practice Bulletin
No. 131. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 120(5):
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Genital HPV infection. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm.
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Runowicz CD (2011). Cervical cancer prevention and screening. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 18, chap. 19. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for cervical cancer: Summary of recommendations. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm.