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Pap Smear Facts

  • A Pap smear is a simple, quick, and essentially painless screening test.
  • Cells collected from a woman's cervix are spread on a microscope slide for examination.
  • The cells are evaluated for abnormalities, specifically for pre- cancerous and cancerous changes.
  • Pap smears are recommended for all women starting at age 21 years or within 3 years of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first.
  • Most women over age 30 who have had reliable Pap screening with persistently normal results can be screened less often than yearly.
  • Pap smears should not be performed in women who have had a total hysterectomy for benign conditions and had prior normal Pap smears.
  • The Pap smear is read (analyzed) according to a uniform standardized system known as the Bethesda System.
  • A recording of the woman's menstruation status and whether and when she had abnormal Pap smears previously, is essential to the reader of the current Pap smear.
  • Screening guidelines recommend that most women over 65-70 years old who have had regular Pap screening with negative results can stop having Pap tests, because abnormal Pap smears are very unusual in this setting.
  • Up to 80% of women diagnosed with invasive cancer of the cervix have not had a Pap smear in the past 5 years.
  • Cancer of the cervix is a preventable disease.



If it has been less than 12 months since your last Pap smear and this Pap smear is not related to follow-up for an abnormal Pap smear, your insurance company may not pay for this exam. If you have questions regarding insurance coverage of your Pap smear, you should contact your insurance carrier prior to your appointment.

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North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7331/ Fax: (701) 231-6132
Campus address: Wallman Wellness Center 102
Physical/delivery address: 18th Street and Centennial Blvd., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5150/ PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
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Last Updated: Friday, September 19, 2014 4:18:55 PM