PAP Smear

How Is A Pap Smear Performed?

A Pap smear is performed in a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic by a

  • doctor
  • physician assistant
  • nurse midwife
  • nurse practitioner

or other specially trained healthcare provider. Each of these professionals is also qualified to perform a pelvic examination, which can help detect cancer in female reproductive organs other than the cervix.

During a pelvic examination, the woman takes off her clothes, puts on a short paper or cotton gown that opens in the front, and lies on her back on an examining table. She positions herself for the Pap smear by bending her knees, aligning the tops of her thighs with the edge of the table, and placing her feet in stirrups or supports.

The healthcare provider performing the examination

  • looks for lumps, sores, inflammation, or other abnormalities of her external genitals
  • inserts a metal or plastic instrument called a speculum into the vagina.
  • uses a small disposable swab, wooden spatula, brush, or soft-bristled “broom” to remove cells from the entrance to the canal that connects the cervix with the uterus.
  • may also remove cells from the back of the cervical canal.
  • places the cell sample on a glass slide, which is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.

After removing the speculum, the healthcare provider gently inserts two gloved fingers into the woman’s vagina and places his or her other hand on her abdomen. This enables the examiner to determine the size, shape, and consistency of the woman’s uterusovariesvagina, and fallopian tubes. After completing this part of the examination, the examiner inserts a gloved finger into the woman’s rectum to detect abnormalities of the rectum and nearby structures.

A woman may feel some mild discomfort, cramping, or pressure during a Pap smear or pelvic exam. These procedures should not be painful.

Nice To Know:

Most cervical cancer originates at the entrance to the canal that connects the cervix with the uterus. About 10 percent of all cervical cancers begin in the back of the cervical canal, but cell samples are rarely taken from this area.

Nice To Know:

It’s a good idea to take a panty liner or thin sanitary pad when having a Pap smear. Light bleeding or spotting may occur afterward.

Nice To Know:

Test kits are available that allow a woman to give herself a Pap test. These tests can be done at home but they

  • are less likely than conventional tests are to detect cancer and precancerous cells
  • may indicate normal results even when a woman has serious abnormalities that should be treated
  • should not be used in place of traditional screening methods

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