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The Pap Test:  A brief review

  • Cervical cancer screening in the US has been based on the Pap test since its introduction into clinical practice in the mid 1940s.
     
  • The Pap test is a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope.
     
  • Pap test results are reported as “normal” or “abnormal” depending on the presence or absence of abnormal cells.  We now know that the cell abnormalities seen on Pap smears are usually caused by HPV infection.

  • Wide spread acceptance and accessibility of  annual Pap smear screening in the US has resulted in significant reduction in the rate of cervical cancer in this country compared to the worldwide rate of 500,000 new cases per year. 

  • Even so, the Pap test is more than 60 years old and new technology is proving more reliable at predicting cervical cancer risk.

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