A Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is an exam a doctor uses to test for cervical cancer in women. It can also reveal changes in your cervical cells that may turn into cancer later.
The Papanicolaou test is a method of cervical screening undertaken with the purpose of detecting potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix.
During the procedure, the person has to lie on their back on an examination table with their legs spread and feet resting in supports called stirrups. The doctor will slowly insert a device called a speculum into the vagina. This device keeps the vaginal walls open and provides access to the cervix. Then the doctor will scrape a small sample of cells from the cervix. Most women feel a slight push and irritation during the brief scraping. The sample of cells from the cervix will be preserved and sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of abnormal cells.
If the results are normal, that means that no abnormal cells were identified. Normal results are sometimes also referred to as negative. If the results are normal, there is probably no need for a Pap smear for another three years.