Southcoast Health: Offering Pap Smear in MA & RI
A Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It involves collecting a sample of cervical cells during a pelvic exam. Your doctor will insert a swab through the vagina until it reaches the cervix, or opening of the uterus. The sample goes to a laboratory for testing.
Southcoast Health provides a wide variety of specialized women’s health services, including Pap smear, in North Dartmouth, MA and the surrounding areas. Find an OB/GYN near you or contact Southcoast Health to schedule your annual exam and Pap smear.
Reasons for a Pap Smear
The main reason to have a Pap smear is to screen for cervical cancer and precancerous cells in the cervix. The Pap smear technique identifies these and other abnormal changes in cervical cells. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. Your gynecologist or primary care doctor should perform a Pap smear as part of your gynecologic exam.
The frequency of testing depends on your age:
- Women 21 to 29 years of age should have a Pap smear every three years.
- Women 30 to 65 years of age should have a Pap smear and HPV testing every five years. A Pap smear alone every three years is an alternative.
- Women older than 65 years of age may be able to stop Pap smear tests depending on their medical history.
Some women may need more frequent testing depending on their risk of cervical cancer.
How to Prepare for a Pap Smear
You can prepare for a Pap smear by avoiding things that can cause an incorrect test result. For two days before your Pap smear do not:
- Have sex
- Use tampons or vaginal medicines, creams, sprays or deodorants
- You should also not have a Pap smear during or too close to your period, as it can cause false results. The best time to have a Pap smear is 10 to 20 days after your period starts.
Recovery & What to Expect
A Pap smear is not painful. You may experience some mild discomfort as the swab brushes the surface of the cervix to collect cells. You also may have some spotting afterwards. You can return to your normal activities after a Pap smear.
You will learn the results of your Pap smear in one to three weeks. If you get an abnormal test result, you may need a repeat test or additional follow-up testing, such as an HPV test.
Southcoast Health provides women’s health testing, including Pap smear, in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.