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What is the Pap test?

A Pap test is a test that can find changes on your cervix. During a Pap test, cells are taken from your cervix, and sent to a lab for assessment. In most cases, the cells are normal.

The Pap test does not check for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea or chlamydia. Ask your doctor or nurse about testing for STIs.

What is the cervix and where is it located?

The uterus (womb) is made up of two parts. The upper part is the place where a baby grows. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, joining the womb to the vagina. Abnormal changes (cervical dysplasia) may develop at this opening to the womb.


What can I expect during a Pap test?

English | French (pdf)

Why should I have Pap tests?

Sometimes abnormal changes caused by HPV can become cancerous. A Pap test can find these abnormal changes before they turn into cancer. Regular Pap tests with follow-up for abnormal changes can prevent most cancer of the cervix.

What are the potential benefits and harms of the Pap test?


  • Regular Pap tests with follow-up for abnormal changes can prevent up to 80% of cervical cancer

  • Abnormal changes can be removed with procedures during colposcopy

  • Detecting cancer at an early stage can result in simpler treatment, more treatment options, and less need for chemotherapy

Potential Harms

  • Discomfort or bleeding from the Pap test or colposcopy

  • Anxiety that may result from abnormal test results

  • Over-diagnosis of abnormal cell changes that would go away on their own

  • Problems with future pregnancies from some treatment during colposcopy


Quick Links

Pap Tests, the HPV vaccine and your results (pdf) English | French
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