1. Health

The Best Time to Schedule Your Pap Smear

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Updated May 21, 2014

When scheduling your Pap smear appointment, experts recommend taking careful planning about what day in your cycle to have the test done. Guidelines to keep in mind when scheduling your next Pap smear:
  • do not schedule for a day that you may be menstruating
  • try to schedule for an appointment about two weeks following the first day if your last period

Why Does it Matter When I Have a Pap Smear?

The Pap smear is a highly effective screening tool for cervical cancer, but changes that occur during a woman's monthly cycle may make it slightly difficult for the pathologist to interpret the sample.

You should also abstain from vaginal intercourse, douching, vaginal foams and jellies, vaginal inserts, and tampons at least 48 hours prior to the appointment. These can all prevent an accurate reading of the sample.

Can I Have a Pap Smear During My Period?

During a light menstrual period, some doctors will perform a Pap smear. Newer, liquid based Pap smears are more effective at separating mucus and menstrual fluid from cervical cells, allowing for an accurate test. If you are not comfortable having a Pap smear while menstruating, no matter how light the flow, you always have the right to reschedule.

If you begin menstruating a few days before or the day of your appointment, call you doctor's office and let the doctor or a nurse know. The doctor may wish to reschedule the Pap smear when you are not menstruating.

What if I Have Gone Through Menopause?

It is a common misconception that women who have gone through menopause no longer need regular Pap smears. Post-menopausal women may still need Pap smears. Those who still require Pap smears can have the test performed at any time during the month.

Sources:

"Cervical Cancer Screening: Testing Can Start Later and Occur Less Often Under New ACOG Recommendations." ACOG NEWS RELEASE. 21 July 2003. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Accessed 04 Aug 2007.

"Key Statistics About Cervical Cancer." 08 Aug 2006. American Cancer Society. Accessed 04 Aug 2007.
"Pap Test: What is a Pap Test." 02 FEB 2003. American Cancer Society.

"The Pap Test Questions and Answers." Dec 2003. National Cancer Institute.

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