The Pap test is usually not done during the menstrual period because of the presence of blood cells. The best time is in the middle of the menstrual cycle.
The Pap test is an extremely cost-effective and beneficial test. Cervical cancer used to be a leading cause of cancer deaths in American women, but widespread use of this diagnostic procedure reduced the death rate from this disease by 74% between 1955 and 1992. The Pap test detects about 95% of cervical cancer.
The Pap test, sometimes called a cervical smear, is the microscopic examination of cells scraped from both the outer cervix and the cervical canal. (The cervix is the opening between the vagina and the uterus, or womb.) It is called the "Pap" test after its developer, Dr. George N. Papanicolaou. This simple procedure is performed during a gynecologic examination and is usually covered by insurance. For those with coverage, Medicare will pay for one screening Pap smear every three years.
During the pelvic examination, an instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina to open it. The doctor then uses a tiny brush, or a cotton-tipped swab and a small spatula to wipe loose cells off the cervix and to scrape them from the inside of the cervix. The cells are transferred or "smeared" onto glass slides, the slides are treated to stabilize the cells, and the slides are sent to a laboratory for microscopic examination. The entire procedure is usually painless and takes five to ten minutes at most.
Laura J. Ninger, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,