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A pap smear (also called a pap test) is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. It tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix, the opening of the uterus. During the procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped away and then examined for abnormal growth. Pap smears can be a bit uncomfortable and they are quick. During the procedure, you'll lie on your back on an examination table with your legs spread and your feet resting in supports called stirrups. Your doctor will slowly insert a device called a speculum into your vagina to keep the vaginal walls open and provide access to the cervix. Then your doctor will scrape a small sample of cells from your cervix using a tool called a spatula. Most women feel a slight push and irritation during the brief scraping. The sample of cells from your cervix will be preserved and sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of abnormal cells.
There are two possible outcomes from pap smear - normal and abnormal. If the tests are abnormal then it does not mean that you have cancer. Rather it shows that there are abnormal cells in the cervix which could be precancerous. The exam uses light and magnification to see vaginal and cervical tissues more clearly. Pap tests are very accurate and regular pap screenings reduce cervical cancer rates. Like a lot of medical testing, it's not pleasant, but the brief discomfort isn't a good reason to neglect your well-being.
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