A Pap smear is a test doctors use to check if a person has any precancerous or cancerous cells in their cervix. It is not a test for chlamydia. Both tests may involve a pelvic exam, but they collect cells from different parts of the person’s reproductive tract.
This article explains why doctors do Pap tests and the tests and treatments for chlamydia.
A Pap smear test will not be able to detect chlamydia.
Doctors use a Pap smear test to identify abnormal cells around the cervix that might become cancerous. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, located at the end of the vaginal opening.
The CDC recommends regular screening for both cervical cancer and chlamydia. Most doctors offer Pap smears every
The aim is to find precancerous cells and treat them before a person develops cancer.
If the tests reveal any abnormal cells, doctors usually recommend further testing.
Learn more about Pap smears.
Different organizations may have different testing recommendations. The ACS recommends starting screening at
However, females older than 65 may still require pap smears, depending on their medical histories. A person over 65 years with a history of abnormal Pap smear results may require more testing.
A person should consult a gynecologist about Pap smear recommendations.
For the test, a doctor inserts a speculum into the person’s vagina. This holds the vaginal walls open and allows the doctors to see the cervix.
The doctor then scrapes the surface of the cervix with a small brush to collect some cells. They then send the cells to a laboratory to check for abnormalities that might indicate cancer or HPV.
Most people get their Pap smear results within 3 weeks of testing. According to
- Normal: When there is no evidence of abnormal cells, and there is little likelihood of the person having cervical cancer
- Abnormal: When doctors detect changes in the cervical cells. An abnormal result does not automatically mean a person has cancer or precancerous cells, but doctors will want to carry out further tests.
- Unclear: An inconclusive result could be for various reasons, such as the specimen being inadequate or unknown cells being present. In these situations, a doctor will likely suggest further testing.
According to the
Anyone can get chlamydia through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has the infection. The CDC reported that
However, this figure may not represent the full number, as many people with chlamydia do not experience any symptoms and do not report the condition.
They stress the importance of yearly testing, with additional tests if someone experiences any symptoms. A person should also undergo additional tests if their partner has chlamydia.
Chlamydia is often called a “silent infection” because not everyone experiences symptoms.
Even if a person does have symptoms, they may not associate them with chlamydia, as they may appear until several weeks after having sexual intercourse.
- lower back pain
- pelvic pain
- unusual vaginal discharge
- discharge from the penis
- bleeding between periods
- painful urination
- pain during sex
Learn more about chlamydia.
Doctors can collect samples of vaginal fluids by taking a swab during a pelvic exam.
The chlamydia bacteria can also collect in the urethra, throat, and rectum, so a doctor may take swabs from multiple sites. Rather than a cervix swab, a doctor can also collect a urine sample to test the lower genital tract, but this may be less accurate. Testing males for chlamydia usually involves a urine sample.
People can also order tests to do from home. They should follow the instructions carefully and send the samples to a doctor’s office or lab in the mail.
A doctor will diagnose chlamydia if a person has a positive test result.
The person may receive their test results and diagnosis a few days after having the test.
After receiving a diagnosis, a person will start treatment for chlamydia with the help of medical professionals.
The CDC recommends that people abstain from sexual activity for the duration of their treatment or for 7 days after a one-off dose of azithromycin.
This section answers some frequently asked questions about pap smears and chlamydia.
What STIs are checked during a Pap smear?
Pap smears are not STI tests; however, doctors can test the same sample for HPV. If the results identify HPV DNA in the sample, it means the person has the virus.
HPV infections usually clear up on their own, but the
Can your gyne tell if you have chlamydia?
A gynecologist cannot tell if a person has chlamydia just by examining them but will collect a cell sample for laboratory testing.
If a person has had untreated chlamydia for a while, it can spread to the upper reproductive tract, the uterus, and the fallopian tubes. This can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Pap smears are not tests for chlamydia. Instead, they check for cancerous and precancerous cells around a person’s cervix.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the U.S., and the CDC recommends that people ages
For those ages 65 years and older, a doctor will decide whether or not to continue screening. A person who is not at risk of developing cancer may not need further testing.
People still require regular health check-ups and should consult a doctor if they experience any abnormal symptoms, whether or not a Pap smear is due.