During a Pap test, your healthcare provider will insert a device called a speculum to separate the vaginal walls and provide a view of the cervix. A small swab is used to collect a sample of the cervical cells, which are then placed in a solution to be viewed and studied under a microscope. You will be informed whether the results are normal.

One of the most common causes of an abnormal result is human papilloma virus (HPV). This is a very common infection that causes abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix but that often causes no symptoms. Many women with HPV don’t know that they have it. There are several different types of HPV. Most of them don’t cause any problems or symptoms, but some kinds can increase your risk of cervical cancer. If you have abnormal results on your Pap test due to HPV, you may need to have the test repeated or have other tests done to follow up.

Regular well woman exams that include a Pap test are important for maintaining your health. Don’t put it off –- schedule your annual exam today.