Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
A Pap smear is usually part of a pelvic exam and accompanied by a breast exam performed by the health care
professional. It should only take about one minute to perform a Pap smear during this overall exam.
The woman will lie on the examination table (see Multimedia File 1) on her back with her knees up and bent and her feet in stirrups (rests). While she is lying on an examination table, her health care
professional will use a small metal or plastic instrument called a speculum to open the vagina so that the walls of the vagina and cervix can be seen clearly.
A sample of mucus and cells will be obtained from the cervix (see Multimedia File 2) (the part of the uterus that extends into the vagina) and endocervix (the opening of the cervix) using a wooden scraper or a small cervical brush or broom.
The sample of cells is evenly applied to a glass slide and sprayed with a fixative. This sample is sent to the lab for close and careful examination under a microscope. If the doctor is using a new kind of Pap smear called a ThinPrep test, the sample is rinsed into a vial and sent to a lab for slide preparation and examination.
A cytologist (a specialist trained to look at the cells and interpret a Pap smear) reviews both types of tests.
Some discomfort during the test may occur. Most women feel nothing at all or feel pressure. Staying relaxed will help stop any discomfort. The woman should breathe slowly and concentrate on relaxing her stomach and legs.
A Pap smear should not be painful. If
a woman has pain during the test, she should tell her doctor.