Due Date Calculator
Am I Pregnant Quiz

What Is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. During a speculum exam, your doctor scrapes some cells from your cervix and puts them on a glass slide. At the lab, a technician looks at the slide under the microscope and searches for abnormal cells.

Since a Pap smear is a screening test, it can tell if are at risk for cancer of the cervix or pre-cancerous conditions (dysplasia). It cannot make the diagnosis, however. If abnormal cells seen on the Pap smear, you should have a colposcopy and biopsies.

Colposcopy is a fancy name for looking at your cervix through a magnifying lens. Your gynecologist applies a mild vinegar solution to your cervix and looks at it under magnification; abnormal areas will appear white. The gynecologist takes a small piece from each abnormal area. This is called a biopsy. When the pathologist looks at the biopsy specimen under the microscope he or she can determine if there are any cancerous or pre-cancerous cells present. The pathologist may also notice evidence of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).