What To Think About
- Normal Pap test results do not completely rule out the presence of abnormal cells (Reference dysplasia Opens New Window) or cervical cancer. The test may fail to find abnormal cells when they are present (Reference false-negative Opens New Window). 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 (Reference false-positive Opens New Window). Talk with your doctor about the meaning of your Pap test results.
- Some women with abnormal Pap tests or women older than age 30 may be tested for Reference human papillomavirus (HPV) Opens New Window, a Reference sexually transmitted infection (STI) Opens New Window that causes Reference genital warts Opens New Window. Some high-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. The HPV test may or may not be done at the same time as the Pap test. The results of the HPV test can help doctors decide if further tests or treatments are needed. For more information, see the topic Reference Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test.
- A 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 results.
- A Pap test alone is not used to diagnose dysplasia or cervical cancer. Other tests are needed, such as Reference colposcopy and cervical biopsy.
- 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. For more information, see the topics Reference Vaginal Wet Mount, Reference Tests for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Reference Herpes Tests, Reference Syphilis Tests, Reference Chlamydia Tests, and Reference Gonorrhea Test.
- 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. For more information, see the topic Reference Vaginal Self-Examination (VSE).
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 4, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology