What could they mean?
(HealthDay News) -- A pap smear is used to detect changes in the cells of a woman's cervix that could indicate cancer. The test is usually recommended for all women age 21 and older, and women younger than 21 if they have been sexually active for three or more years.
(HealthDay News) -- Most women should get their first Pap smear -- a test to detect cervical cancer -- once they become sexually active or reach age 18, the American Academy of Family Physicians says.
The test is recommended once a year until a woman has had at least three negative ones. After this, a woman should have a Pap smear at least every three years, unless her doctor thinks the test is needed more often, the academy says.
What could a positive result mean? The academy lists these possibilities:
- Inflammation of the cervix, attributable to factors including a yeast infection, HPV, herpes virus or other infection.
- Very early signs of cancer of the cervix, a condition called dysplasia.
- Moderately advanced cervical cancer.
- Very advanced stages of cancer.