At the laboratory, a Pap smear is examined by a cytotechnologist, a professional specially trained to recognize abnormal cells that could indicate the presence of cancer or a precancerous condition.
If the cytotechnologist spots something suspicious, a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in identifying diseases under a microscope, studies the slide and classifies the cell sample.
Is The Laboratory Reputable?
Make sure that the cell sample is evaluated and classified by a laboratory accredited by the American College of Pathologists or another professional or governmental accrediting group.
If the laboratory is accredited,
- the facility has been inspected by independent professionals
- laboratory personnel use recognized quality control and quality assurance techniques
- pathologists and cytotechnologists who analyze Pap smears have the training and experience to recognize cell abnormalities
Questioning Laboratory Credentials
Ask the doctor about the credentials of the laboratory evaluating the Pap smear. Ask for
- the name of the laboratory
- where the laboratory is located
- whether the laboratory is accredited
- when the laboratory was last inspected
- whether the doctor has a good relationship with the professionals who will examine and classify the cell sample
- a copy of the Pap examination report
- an explanation of Pap smear results.
Nice To Know:
To find out whether a specific laboratory is accredited to examine PAP smears, call the College of American Pathologists Public Information Service at 1-800-LAB-5678.
If your Pap smear is being sent to a lab that isn't accredited, you may request that it be sent to an accredited lab.
Nice To Know:
All laboratories that process Pap smears must comply with the stringent requirements of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.