What is a Pap Smear Test?

Dr. Duncan Miller, B. Sc, MD, discusses the Pap smear test.

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Dr. Duncan Miller, B. Sc, MD, discusses the Pap smear test.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Duncan Miller, BSc, MD

What is a Pap Smear Test? Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

The Pap smear, or a Pap test, is a way of screening for cervical cancer and it should really be part of your primary healthcare annual visit within three years of starting sexual activity.

The test itself can be quite intimidating and that is, obviously, a very personal part of your body, so it's important to understand what's involved if you haven't had it done to you before.

Because it is such an intimate examination, you should talk to your healthcare provider about it before your first one just so you know what's involved. Also, it's certainly reasonable to have somebody else in the room with you if you feel more comfortable having a chaperone or a family member with you just to make you more comfortable. Ideally, you want to have this test done when you're not menstruating so that there's less blood to interfere with the test itself.

The Pap smear itself involves the use of a device called a speculum, which is either a single-use, plastic, disposable one such as this, or a metal one that is used, and then, sterilized after use. Okay, so, the speculum is a device used by the primary healthcare provider to see the cervix, and we do that by inserting it into the vagina, and then, opening it up, and spreading the walls of the vagina so we can get a clearer view of the cervix, which is, of course, the bottom of the uterus or womb.

And then, we use a brush or a spatula just to take a sampling, which is painless itself, of the cells that line the cervix. And then, those cells are smeared – thus the name Pap smear, smeared – on a slide, which is then looked at by a specialist to see if there's abnormal or precancerous cells present.

Just remember that treatment for your condition will vary with the individual and the condition they may have, so always consult your primary healthcare provider for more information.

Presenter: Dr. Duncan Miller, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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