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does a pap smear test for stds

By: RSC Editorial Team

March 7, 2022

Does a Pap Smear Test for STDs?

Give yourself peace of mind by scheduling your regular pap smear today. No one looks forward to their pap smears, but we all understand they can improve our overall reproductive health outcomes. For nearly 100 years, pap smears have helped doctors detect cancer in their patients during the early stages. But does a pap smear test for STDs? 

One might think that a pap smear represents the broadest reproductive health exam. However, the purpose of a pap smear remains narrow in scope. Discover what pap smears entail, why doctors perform them, and who needs them the most below.

What Is a Pap Smear?

The pap smear emerged in the 1920s and tests patients for cancer of the cervix. When you undergo a pap smear, your doctor may scrape away a few abnormal cells for lab tests. Usually, the results come back negative, but it remains prudent to check your cervix as discussed between you and your doctor.

Is a Pap Smear Painful?

In most cases, pap smears feel uncomfortable but not painful. However, for patients with certain irregularities of the vagina or cervix, a pap smear may prove painful. Inform your doctor if your pap smear seems more painful than some of your previous tests.

What Is a Cervix?

The cervix is the uterine gateway to the vagina. The cervix is the passage for emission of menstrual blood and the birth canal through which babies are born. It is also the passage through which the sperms in semen pass to achieve fertilization.

Do I Need to Abstain From Sex Before or After a Pap Smear?

Most medical doctors will ask you to abstain from sex for 24 to 48 hours before the examination. After the pap test, you can have sex right away if you do not notice any significant discomfort.

Where Is a Pap Smear Normally Used?

Once female patients reach adulthood, a pap test becomes a regular screening test. During a pap smear, your doctor will insert a speculum to widen the vaginal canal, providing easy access to the cervix. The doctor will perform a visual examination and collect samples of your cervical cells and mucus.

What Can a Pap Smear Detect?

A pap smear may detect several different health concerns. Some of the most common health issues that a pap smear detects include: 

  • Cervical cancer
  • Other types of cancer with abnormal presentation near the cervix
  • Precancerous cells
  • Signs of human papillomavirus (HPV)

Do They Test for STDs During a Pap Smear? Do Pap Smears Test for STIs?

No, doctors do not test for STDs or STIs during a pap smear since it is a test for cervical cancer only. However, if your doctor encounters any abnormalities, you may need to undergo a separate test for HPV. 

However, while a doctor is performing a vaginal examination as part of a pap test, they may spot evidence of different types of STDs upon visual examination. In that cases, your doctor would need to send a sample to a laboratory to confirm any diagnosis. 

If you need an STD test, you can submit to same-day STD testing to know your results as quickly as possible.

When to Get Separate STD Testing

If you believe you might have an STD, you should request testing from your healthcare provider. Depending on where you go for your pap smear, your doctor may not suggest an STD test unless you have an obvious growth or lesion. Yet, many patients who have STDs remain asymptomatic. You should consider getting a rapid STD test if you:

  • Have unprotected sex
  • Experience a sexual encounter with a new partner
  • Maintain sexual relationships with multiple partners
  • Have sex with an untested or non-monogamous partner
  • Think you may have an STD
  • Suspect your partner may have an STD

What Does STD Testing Entail?

Taking an STD test will require you to undergo STD blood testing and give urine samples. In some cases, you may need to give other types of samples, as well. You may experience minor pain and discomfort when your doctor takes samples during a blood test. However, most patients report that the most agonizing part of STD involves waiting for the results. 

Does a pap smear test for STD? No, but some of the STDs that you can test for at Rapid STD Testing include: 

  • HIV
  • HPV
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C
  • Herpes Simplex 1 and 2 

If you do not know what STDs to get tested for, ask your physician for guidance.

Pap Smear vs. HPV Test

A pap smear does not test for HPV or any other STDs. The two types of medical tests remain distinct from each other. However, when a patient’s symptoms meet certain conditions, the pap smear may lead to a secondary HPV test as part of the standard medical protocol. 

HPV affects nearly 80 million Americans. However, many strains of HPV do not cause cancer. 

Sometimes, your doctor may conduct a pap smear and HPV test simultaneously. Both tests follow some of the same procedures, including the collection of cervical cells. 

At the lab, the technician will perform two different tests — one for HPV and one (the pap) for cancer or precancerous cells. Once your doctor reviews your test data, you will receive confirmation of both results by appointment or phone.

Pap Smear vs. Pelvic Exam

A pelvic exam involves a physical examination of your vagina, uterus, ovaries, and other parts of your reproductive system. During the exam, your doctor will use the sense of touch to search for cancer, swollen lymph nodes, and other tactile irregularities. 

A pelvic exam and pap smear remain separate because your doctor will not collect cervical cells as a routine part of your pelvic exam. However, many doctors will combine a pelvic exam, pap smear, and HPV test to work more efficiently and minimize patient discomfort.

What Is a Well-Woman Examination?

A well-woman examination comprises several separate tests, allowing medical practitioners to gain a comprehensive understanding of a woman’s overall reproductive health. It involves examining the breasts and genitals, as well as lab tests.

Breast Exams

You will undergo a few different types of breast exams during a well-woman examination, including:

  • Palpation of the breasts and axillary region for signs of cancer, infection, or benign tumors
  • Self-examination of the breasts to allow patients to feel for themselves
  • Mammogram to detect cancer in its earliest stages

Pelvic Exams

When conducted as part of a well-woman examination or otherwise, pelvic exams go through three steps, including:

  • Visual examination of the external genitalia where the doctor looks for abnormalities
  • Bimanual examination where the doctor feels from the inside and outside simultaneously
  • Speculum examination where the doctor widens the vaginal canal to inspect the cervix

When and Why Get a Pap Smear Test and an HPV Test

While no one looks forward to their first pap smear, we all understand that it represents an absolute necessity for anyone concerned about their health. If you feel apprehensive about your first pap smear or forgot when you should get your next one, you can find the answers to your questions below.

At What Age Is a Pap Smear Done?

Most patients receive their first pap smears at age 21. However, doctors may recommend pap smears for younger patients when they detect irregularities of the cervix, especially if the patients are sexually active. Patients younger than 21 should not worry about a negative result until their doctors receive the test data from the laboratory.

How Often Do I Need a Pap Smear?

In general, women should get a pap smear every three years unless test results return positive or the doctor notices an abnormality during a later exam. In such cases, your doctor may recommend additional pap smears in the short term.

What If the Doctor Detects an Abnormality?

Do not panic if your doctor discovers an abnormality during a pap smear. Most of the time, whatever the doctor finds will carry a low-risk prognosis. Your physician can use cryotherapy to remove precancerous cells or suspicious growths before they mature into more serious conditions.

What If the Doctor Detects Cancer?

Localized cervical cancer remains highly treatable. Patients can expect 5-year survivability greater than 90%. In most cases, your doctor can remove or destroy the cancerous lesions. However, if you put off your pap smear for several years, it provides any cervical cancer the opportunity to spread and become regional or distant, in which cases, survivability plummets.

When Should I Take My First HPV Test?

Doctors recommend that you take your first HPV test sometime between ages 25 and 30 because patients in this age bracket have a higher infection rate. However, younger individuals can contract the disease, including those who have practiced abstinence their entire lives.

How Often Should I Get Tested for HPV?

Patients should get tested for HPV every five years at the most. Individuals who engage in sexual relationships with multiple partners may want to take the HPV test more frequently.

Rapid STD Testing | Pap Smears Near Me

Does a pap smear test for STDs? Unfortunately, no. But you can put your mind at ease with a 10-panel STD test from Rapid STD Testing. Call one of our representatives today at (866) 872-1888 or visit one of our 4,000+ testing centers around the country.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
March 7, 2022

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