What's a Pap Smear?

The pap smear.  You’ve probably heard of it but don’t know what it really consists of.  Many women in the BYUI/ LDS culture we live in are unaware of what a pap smear is and why it is important because abstinence is practiced before marriage. 

A pap smear is done to check for signs of cervical cancer.  The cancer is generally caused by infection of the human papilloma virus (HPV).  According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 (the most recent year information is available) there were 11,818 women diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,939 women died from cervical cancer.  As a nation, the rate of cervical cancer was 7.5 cases per 100,000.  This rate has steadily declined since 1999 when the rate was 9.8 per 100,000.  The CDC attributes this decline to an increase of women getting pap smears.

It is rare for a woman who has never been sexually active to have HPV.  However, providers recommend getting a pap smear starting at age 21, regardless of sexual activity and having the test repeated every three years.  This is due to the fact that cervical cancer can be influenced by other factors besides sexual activity. 

The Student Health Center will schedule pap smears.  It is recommended that you are not on your period.  The best time to have one done is 10-20 days after the first day of your last period.     

For more information, visit the websites listed below.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Us cancer statistics: Interactive map. Retrieved from http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DCPC_INCA/DCPC_INCA.aspx
Office on Women’s Health. (2012, July 16). Pap test fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/pap-test.html
Pruthi, S. (2011, June 24). Pap smear. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pap-smear/AN01635