A Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) is a way to examine cells collected from the cervix (the lower, narrow end of the uterus). The main purpose of the Pap test is to detect cancer or abnormal cells that may lead to cancer. It can also find noncancerous conditions, such as inflammation and infection.
In a pelvic exam, the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum are felt to find any abnormality in their shape or size. During a pelvic exam, an instrument called a speculum is used to widen the vagina so that the upper portion of the vagina and the cervix can be seen.
A Pap test and pelvic exam are important parts of a woman’s routine health care because they can detect abnormalities that may lead to invasive cancer of the cervix. These abnormalities can be treated before cancer develops. Most invasive cancers of the cervix can be prevented if women have Pap test regularly. Also, as with many types of cancer, cancer of the cervix is more likely to be treated successfully if it is detected early.
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