The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - Pap Smear
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What happens when the test is performed?

  • The test begins with a pelvic examination (see page 44).Your doctor might use a cotton swab to clear extra mucus from the vagina and cervix.He or she then takes a small rounded spatula and gently rubs a few cells from the outer surface of the cervix. The doctor also collects cells by inserting a small brush into the opening in the center of the cervix (the cervical os). You might feel some brief cramping when the cells are being collected, but otherwise the procedure is painless. The cell samples are either smeared across a glass slide or shaken loose into a bottle containing special fluid (a laboratory technician will transfer the samples to a slide later). Both a machine and a trained laboratory specialist examine the sample to check for abnormal cells.

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