Papanicolaou Test

This is a test which is used to screen for cancer of the cervix. In this test, cells from the cervix are removed and are examined under a microscope by a pathologist (a specialist in looking at body tissues). The cells are removed from the cervix by a simple scraping or brushing of the cervix and the insides of the cervix. This is a very accurate test in detecting cervical cancer and has been very helpful in decreasing deaths from this disease. Pap tests are reported in terms of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Cervix means in the cervix; intraepithelial means changes in the cells; and neoplasia means new growth. The sub classes of CIN are:

  • CIN 1: mild and mild-to-moderate dysplasia (abnormal tissue)

  • CIN 2: moderate and moderate-to-severe dysplasia

  • CIN 3: severe dysplasia and carcinoma (malignant tumor) in process.

The Pap test, when performed routinely, has been a great help in the early detection of cervical cancer, which is treatable if caught at an early stage. The Pap test is also used to monitor any abnormalities or unusual findings. In many cases, these findings are part of a body's repair process and often resolve themselves without any further treatment. If you douche, tub-bathe, or use vaginal creams 48 - 72 hours prior to the examination, your test results might be "unsatisfactory."


The test should be done when you are not having a period or vaginal bleeding.


No abnormal or atypical cells.

Ranges for normal findings may vary among different laboratories and hospitals. You should always check with your doctor after having lab work or other tests done to discuss the meaning of your test results and whether your values are considered within normal limits.


Your caregiver will go over the test results with you and discuss the importance and meaning of your results, as well as treatment options and the need for additional tests if necessary.


It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask the lab or department performing the test when and how you will get your results.