What is a Pap test?

The Pap test is a quick and simple screening test for healthy women with no symptoms, performed by your doctor and some nurses.

A Pap test looks for changes to the cells of the cervix that, if left untreated for a number of years, could develop into cancer. Thankfully, most cell changes aren't dangerous and will either clear naturally from our bodies or can almost always be treated if found early.

The Pap test does not test for cervical cancer or diagnose cervical cancer.

During a Pap test, an instrument called a speculum is used to part the walls of the vagina to get a clear view of the cervix, then a small sample of cells is taken from the surface of the cervix and put onto a glass slide. The slide is examined at a laboratory to look for cell changes.

Ask your health provider about when you should expect to have your test results returned.

Some women find Pap tests a bit awkward, but they should not be painful. Talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you might have.

Cancer Council Helpline