Written on December 19, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
Many women wonder about Pap smear tests and other tests that they have completed at yearly check-ups with healthcare providers. A common question is whether Pap smear tests screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Read this article for everything you need to know.
The Pap smear test is named after Dr. George Papanicolaou, who developed this test to examine the cells in the cervix. This test, also called a Pap test, is most commonly used to screen for cervical cancer. During this test, a healthcare professional will remove cells from the cervix and the cells will be sent to a lab to be examined microscopically.
Pap smear tests are important to help screen for cervical cancer. Catching cells that change formation early may help to prevent cancer development in the future. Typically, it is recommended that women begin getting Pap smears around age 21 and have these tests repeated every three to five years.
Many women wonder, does a Pap smear test for STDs? The short answer is no. A Pap smear tests for cervical cancer and precancerous cells. However, it is common that a Pap smear test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test will be done at the same time. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be passed via skin-to-skin contact. Certain strains of HPV get more attention when it comes to cervical cancer, as some strains can cause changes in the cells of the cervix. For this reason, Pap smears and HPV tests are often talked about during a visit to a healthcare provider’s office, and the tests may be done at the same time.
During a Pap test, the cells of the cervix will be examined, and the findings may show cells have been changed by higher-risk strains of HPV, even though HPV is not tested for directly. The HPV test is performed similarly to the Pap smear test, as cells are also removed from the cervix using a swab. Pap smears do not test directly for any type of STD, so it is important to have separate STD testing completed if you believe that you may be at risk of infection or if you want to know your status.
It is helpful to be aware of the various avenues available for STD testing. If you are sexually active, especially with many partners, or if you are with someone who has been sexually active with many partners, testing is even more critical.
In addition to HPV, an individual can contract several STDs through sexual activity with an infected person. Some of the most common STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, hepatitis, and genital herpes. To test for STDs, you can visit a healthcare provider’s office and/or complete at-home testing.
At-home test kits have become increasingly popular. You can test for these conditions from the comfort of your own home and send the kit to a lab to be analyzed. If you receive a positive test result, it is important to follow up with a qualified healthcare provider to seek treatment.
The recommendations for who and how often a woman should get a Pap smear test can vary based on the risk of developing cervical cancer. Consult a qualified healthcare provider to understand the best testing regimen for you. Generally, the recommendations are :
In addition, if you are going for a Pap smear it can be helpful to :
At Everlywell, we combine the best in modernized, rigorous lab testing with easy-to-access, at-home medicine. We provide a range of blood tests, including several of our sexual health tests, that you can take from the comfort of your home. Your results will be analyzed in CLIA-certified labs and an experienced healthcare provider will deliver your results.
Everlywell also offers online STD consults, available in two hours or less. If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, you can connect with a clinician from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.