Carolinas HealthCare System
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FAQs for Cytology

What is a Pap test?
The Pap test, named after Dr. George Papanicolaou, is a test used to detect pre-cancerous changes of cervical cells. The specimen for the Pap test is collected during a pelvic examination by gently scraping the cervix and placing the collected material in a liquid medium. The Pap test is an excellent test for prevention of the most common type of cervical cancer, but it is not perfect. To optimize cancer prevention, the Pap test should be performed regularly (usually once a year), as recommended. All abnormal Pap tests should be investigated further. Women with abnormal vaginal bleeding should have further testing to determine the cause even if the Pap test is negative. And in certain cases, testing the Pap specimen for human papilloma virus (HPV) may be useful.