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PAP Smear

What Is The Pap Smear?

Last modified: 
17/04/2013 - 13:56

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a painless, noninvasive procedure that doctors and other specially trained healthcare providers use to screen for cancer of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus, or womb, where a baby grows).

This procedure involves

  • collecting cells from the cervix and the vagina
  • preparing the cell sample for evaluation under a microscope
  • examining the cell sample for infections, abnormal cells that may grow into a cancerous tumor, and cancer

The Pap smear is a screening technique. It is used to detect cervical cancer or cervical abnormalities that might become cancer in women who don't have any symptoms of these conditions.

The Pap smear cannot prove that a woman doesn't have cervical cancer, but it can detect 95 percent of all cervical cancers and precancerous abnormalities. It is not a diagnostic test used to identify the illness or condition responsible for symptoms.

Nice To Know:

Doctors, scientists, and engineers are working together to improve Pap smear accuracy. Laboratories that analyze Pap smears are rapidly adopting automated techniques, and many experts believe the new technologies will make important contributions to the screening process.

Facts About The Pap Smear

  • The Pap smear was named for George Papanicolaou, the physician who developed the procedure in the 1930s.
  • In the years since World War II, the Pap smear has become the most widely used cancer screening method in the world.
  • The Pap smear is the most successful cancer screening technique in medical history.
  • Pap screening reduced cervical cancer death rates by 74 percent between 1955 and 1992, and the rate continues to decline by about 2 percent a year.

Nice To Know:

Free Pap Smear Day

National Pap Smear Day was observed on January 14, 2000. Sponsored by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this unprecedented program provided free Pap smears to women who hadn't been screened for at least three years.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.