The Pap Smear Test
The Pap Smear (Papanicolaou Test) is a screening method for precancerous or cancerous cells of the cervix. Cells are scraped from the cervix and then, after beeing stained, examined under a microscope to detect features typical for cancerous transition of cells.
In the United States since the inroduction of the Pap Smear 40 years ago incidence rates of cervical cancer have dropped by 75 percent.
In low income countries many women dor not have access to routine screening. It is estimated that in these countries only 5 percent of women have undergone a Pap smear in the past five years.
How is a Pap smear performed?
The Pap smear is performed as part of a gynaecological exam. You will be placed in a lying position and place your feet in stirrups, so your pelvis is positioned properly for examination. A speculum (instrument to open the vaginal walls to examine the interior) will gently be inserted into your vagina to make the cervix accessible.
By gently scraping the outside of the cervix and the cervical canal with a spatula and then using a small brush cells are sampled and the placed on a microscope cover slip with a fixative to be sent to a specialized laboratory which will perform the microscopic evaluation of the cells.
What if the Pap test is abnormal?Possible test results are can be devided into three main findings:
- benign (noncancerous)
- precancerous (showing some abnormal cell changes)
- malignant (possibly cancerous)
Usually, an abnormal Pap smear will lead to a follow up examination with a repeat Pap smear and possibly other tests.
In case of severe abnormalities an immediate colposcopic examination with biopsies might be suggested.
Medline Plus (accessed April 23, 2006) - Pap Smear
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April 22, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.