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Has it been awhile since your last Pap smear? Or maybe you’ve never had one? If so, it’s a great time to get this important test on your calendar.

We understand the idea of any health test might not be high on your to-do list. But it’s important to keep up with your Pap smear (Pap test) screenings. This simple check can help find cervical cancer and other conditions so you can quickly get the treatment you need.

Our healthcare providers are here to make your experience as easy as possible. You’ll get compassionate, personalized care and support that keeps your comfort in mind every step of the way.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for a Pap Smear?

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Collaborative care:

As a Cleveland Clinic patient, your provider can talk confidentially with other providers, if needed — making your care a seamless experience. Meet our team.

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Caring approach:

We understand that getting a Pap smear might feel embarrassing and uncomfortable. Our healthcare providers are here to lessen your stress, walk you through what to expect and make sure your testing experience is easy for you.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

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Virtual visits:

While Pap smears must be done in person, we offer virtual visits for follow-ups with your provider. You can connect one-on-one with them online, from the comfort of home, using a smartphone, tablet or computer.

What You Need to Know About Getting a Pap Smear at Cleveland Clinic

It can be easy to forget exactly when and why you need a Pap smear. This quick test helps us check for:

Usually, we’ll schedule your Pap smear as part of your yearly physical exam. Anyone assigned female at birth (AFAB) should start getting Pap tests at age 21 — and then usually every two or three years. But how often you’ll have the test depends on many things, including your age, health history and results from your last Pap. Most people don’t need Pap smears after age 65.

It’s important to go over your health history in detail with your provider so they can let you know if you need Pap tests more often than the general recommendations.

When you come to Cleveland Clinic for a Pap test, you might see a:

Each of these providers will treat you with compassion and make sure you feel comfortable throughout your appointment.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida and London.

What to Expect During your Pap Smear at Cleveland Clinic

While you might not always look forward to your Pap smear, we’ll do our best to make it a comfortable experience for you. If you have any questions before, during or after your test, please let us know. We’re here for you.

Before your Pap smear

There are a couple of things you’ll need to keep in mind before your Pap test.

First, it’s important to make sure nothing goes in your vagina within 24 hours of the test. This means you shouldn’t have sexual intercourse within 24 hours of your Pap test.

Second, if you have your period but are bleeding lightly, your healthcare provider should be able to do the Pap test. But if you’re bleeding heavily, we’ll likely ask you to reschedule your test. If there’s blood in the sample, there’s a higher chance the lab might reject it, and then you’d need to do another test after your period.

Getting your Pap smear

On your test day, we’ll take you to an exam room and have you privately undress from the waist down and cover yourself with a sheet. Your provider and an assistant will come in once you’re ready to start the test (and a physical exam if you’re having one).

They’ll have you lie back on the exam table and put your feet in the stirrups. Then, they’ll slowly and carefully put a duck-bill-shaped tool called a speculum into your vagina so they can see in there and insert a small brush (swab) into your cervix (opening of your uterus) to collect a sample of cells. They might do a second sample for an HPV test.

A Pap test shouldn’t be painful, but it can be uncomfortable for a few seconds. You may feel a quick pinch or a sharp feeling when we’re getting your cell samples.

After your Pap smear

After a Pap test, it’s normal to have mild cramping or spotting. If you notice any bleeding, you can ask your provider for a sanitary pad. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine to help with any cramping afterwards.

Your healthcare provider will send your samples to a lab where a specialist (pathologist) will use a microscope to look for any cells that may be cancer or HPV. It might take a couple of weeks for your healthcare provider to get the lab results back.

If your test results are normal, your provider will talk with you about how often they want you to come in for regular Pap smears. It could be every year or it could be every few years. The timing of your tests all depends on you and your health.

If your Pap test results are unclear or abnormal, it’s important to follow up with your provider as soon as possible. They may need to do another test right away or within a few months. A second test can help if your provider thinks an infection or other problems affected the test results. To get more information or rule out cervical cancer, your provider may also order another test called a colposcopy to take a closer look.

Taking the Next Step

Getting a Pap smear probably isn’t on your Top 10 list of fun things to do. And you might want to put off doing it because it can make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. But regularly scheduling your Pap smear is important. It’s the best way to help us keep an eye on what’s going on within your body — and help you get the treatment you need, if and when you need it.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s Pap smear experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s Pap smear experts is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

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