Why do I need a Pap test?
Pap tests screen for cervical cancer, which is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a family of viruses commonly found in individuals. There are many different types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause cervical cancer and other types cause genital warts. HPV is passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact during intimate sexual contact.
Most sexually active people will come into contact with HPV at some point in their lifetime. Usually there are no symptoms and most people do not know that they have an HPV infection. For most people, the infection usually clears on its own within two years.
Although cells on the cervix are always growing and changing, the types of HPV found on the cervix cause the cells to change and become abnormal. Often these abnormal cells return to normal once the HPV virus has cleared, but if it does not, a Pap test will show the abnormal cells to determine if treatment is necessary. If left untreated for a number of years, abnormal cells can slowly turn into cervical cancer.