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Do Pap Smears Test for STDs?


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Question: Do Pap Smears Test for STDs?
When someone asks, "do Pap smears test for STDs?" what they're often really asking is, "if my Pap smear came back normal, could I have an STD? Many women assume that their doctors are testing them for STDs as part of their annual exam, or that STDs show up on a Pap smear, but that is not the case. Just because you're getting a pelvic exam and a Pap smear does not mean that you are getting thoroughly tested for STDs.
Answer: Still, the answer to the question "do Pap smears test for STDs?" is not simply yes or no. Certain types of Pap smear may include HPV testing on the sample that is taken from your cervix, and it is also possible that swelling or damage from other STDs could show up on your Pap smear. However, that is not the same as undergoing comprehensive STD screening. Pap smears do not test for the diseases that should be screened for regularly in sexually active adults such as: Pap smears also do not test for other STDs that individuals may be concerned about, depending on their risk, such as:
  • Syphilis or
  • Herpes.

    Sometimes individuals confuse a wet mount with a Pap smear. A wet mount is a slide made from a swab of your vagina that looks for vaginal infections and other conditions that can easily be identified visually such as BV and trichomoniasis. In contrast, a Pap smear is a swab of your cervix that is examined by a doctor in a pathology lab to locate early signs of cervical cancer. Neither test alone will identify most common STDs.

    So if, when you're asking "do Pap smears test for STDs?" you're really asking "should I get an STD test?, the answer is no and yes, respectively. If you are sexually active, and not in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship that started with negative tests, you should get screened for STDs on a regular basis. A Pap smear at your annual exam is no substitute.

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