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Also referred to as a pap smear, a pap screening refers to a screening test that is more commonly used to detect cancerous as well as pre-cancerous cells in the female reproductive system. Quick and painless, this test was named after and invented by Georgios Papanikolaou, a Greek doctor in early cancer detection and cytopathology. Pap screenings are recommended to women aged 21 and above. They are also recommended yearly for any female of any age who is sexually active.
Performed at a doctor's office, pap smears normally involve the insertion of a speculum and medical spatula into the vaginal canal. This enables the doctor to easily take samples of the cervical cells by gently scraping the inner vaginal walls with the spatula. This procedure is painless and often completed within a few minutes. To enhance the patient's comfort, the instruments are often warmed up and lubricated before insertion. After the test, patients can indulge in their daily activities with no restrictions.
Pap smears are generally recommended to women with a sexual history regardless of age. Although the United States Preventive Task Force believes it is more prudent to get tested once every three years, regardless of sexual history, women should discuss with their OB/GYN how often they should receive a pap screening.