Pap smear: what it is and when to do it

Pap smear: what it is and when to do it

Prevention for cervical cancer begins with carrying out screening tests. Here's what the pap smear is for and when

Talking about serious diseases such as tumors is difficult, but it may be easier to talk about prevention, currently the most effective weapon in our possession to fight cancer. In this sense, screening tests represent an effective and rather simple method for making early diagnosis, such as that of cervical cancer (or cervical cancer).

As reported by the volume of the AIOM Foundation Cancer in Italy 2020 numbers, in young Italian women, cervical cancer is one of the most frequent cancers after breast, thyroid, melanoma and colorectal cancer.

The pap test, as a screening test, has helped to reduce the mortality rate, so it is strongly recommended to perform it with some consistency, ie every 3 years from 25 to 65 years. This is a test that can usually be performed by everyone (albeit with some little care), including menopausal women up to 65 years of age even if they no longer have sexual activity.

To better understand what it is and when to do the pap test, we asked for the consultation of Dr. Elisabetta Colonese, surgeon, specialized in Gynecology and Obstetrics, couple infertility therapy.


  • What is it for
  • Why it is important to do it
  • How often should be performed
  • How to prepare
  • What to do if you are still a virgin
  • What is the difference between pap smears, vaccines and HPV tests
  • What to do when it is positive

What is it for

"The pap test is used to identify and possibly treat cervical lesions, or lesions that can be more or less serious. In fact, not only cervical cancer exists, but there are also lesions that over time could turn into malignant. So the pap test returns results that can detect a normal condition or the presence of abnormal cells and their type ".

The pap test is an examination that is done in the same way as a gynecological examination. In fact, after inserting the speculum to dilate the vagina, the doctor takes small quantities of cells from the cervical canal and the cervix.

Why it is important to do it

"Because it allows us to see lesions of the cervix in time, to manage them well and therefore to prevent cervical cancer".

The pap test is in fact a screening test aimed at preventing cervical cancer.

How often should be performed

“The prevention plans are different at the regional level. Usually, it is offered free of charge every 3 years for women between the ages of 25 and 65. The advice I usually give to my patients is to perform an annual gynecological check-up, complete with pap smears and ultrasound for an all-round gynecological check-up ».

How to prepare

«No particular preparation is required, rather it is good to have some precautions. For example, it is preferable to avoid having sexual intercourse in the two days preceding the exam to avoid alterations in the results. For the same reason, it is better not to use intimate deodorants, spermicidal products and vaginal pessaries or creams 48 hours before the exam ".

In any case, if there are doubts, it is always good to talk to your gynecologist.

What to do if you are still a virgin

«In general, I recommend having a gynecological interview even before having sexual intercourse. It is in fact a great way to eliminate doubts and to talk about sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, papilloma virus, pap smears and the HPV vaccine. In this sense, it is always useful to undergo a first gynecological examination with which the specialist can see, for example, if the external genitals are fine. In the case of a virgin patient, transabdominal ultrasound will be performed on the belly rather than transvaginal ultrasound. To perform the pap test it is good to wait for the patient's sexual activity to begin ".

What is the difference between pap smears, vaccines and HPV tests

"The pap test is a cytological examination through which the cells in the cervix are observed to detect the presence or absence of lesions.

The vaccine, on the other hand, is a tool that allows us to prevent up to 9 of the approximately 150 HPV strains through inoculation that is done within 6 months in 3 doses.

The HPV test is a test that is used to detect the presence of papilloma viruses and is performed when the pap test is altered. In fact, the HPV test makes us understand whether that altered pap test is supported by an HPV that is perhaps at high risk. And in this case the gynecologist will tell us what to do about the next check up ».

What to do when it is positive

"If the result of the pap test is positive, you must contact your trusted gynecologist who will be able to indicate whether to perform the HPV test and colposcopy," concludes the expert.

The pap test is therefore a simple examination that can be carried out safely even during a normal gynecological examination. In fact, it takes place in the same way, it is not painful (at most it could cause some discomfort), but it allows you to constantly monitor the health of the cervix.

Read also

  • Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer, hopes from the Pap test
  • Gynecological tumors, here are the three weapons to prevent and defend
  • Ovarian cancer, a day for awareness in time of Covid-19
  • Head and neck cancers, what they are and how they are prevented
  • How to recognize and deal with endometrial cancer

Tag: Cancer

Category: Health
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