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Pap Smear

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What is Pap Smear?

Pap smear or the Papanicolaou test is a gynecological examination procedure where the cells or tissues collected from the cervix are examined under a microscope.

When is It Indicated?

Pap smears are indicated when the doctor suspects the presence of certain abnormality such as cancer of the cervix. This helps to confirm or rule out the abnormal changes in the cells and tissues that occur in case of cancer.1 It may also be indicated prior to gynecological surgeries or before insertion of an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD).

What are the Preparations Required for the Test?

The test does not need any special preparations. The doctor must be informed if you have had a prior abnormal Pap smear test, if a woman is suspecting that she is pregnant or if she is taking any medication or pills. Sexual intercourse, douching and tub baths must be avoided for 24 h prior to the test. It is also advisable to schedule the test when you are not menstruating.2

How is it Performed?

This is usually performed as a part of the vaginal examination. After suitably positioning  the woman, an instrument known as a speculum is inserted into the vagina to aid in the test. The sample of the cells may be collected either using a small wooden or plastic spatula or a brush that are specifically designed for the test. The sample thus obtained are fixed on a glass slide and sent for laboratory examination.2

What are the Complications of the Procedure?

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The procedure is not associated with any complications except for slight discomfort during the procedure or a small amount of bleeding after the procedure.2

What are the Results?

The pathology report helps the doctor to either rule out or confirm the presence of any abnormal changes in the cells., It is also helpful in grading the condition in order to initiate appropriate therapeutic measures if any abnormality is observed.


1.Familydoctor.org. Pap Smears: What they are and what the results mean. [homepage on Internet]. American Academy of Family Physicians [updated 2004 May; cited 2007 Dec 27]. Available from: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/reproductive/gynecologic/138.html

2.MedlinePlus. Pap smear. [homepage on Internet]. Bethesda, MD: U.S. National Library of Medicine; [updated 2007 Nov 26; cited 2007 Dec 27]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003911.htm

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Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 19, 2015