Pap test, Pap smear, or Papanicolaou test (păpˌənēˈkəlou) [key], medical procedure used to detect cancer of the uterine cervix (see uterus). A scraping, brushing, or smear, is taken from the surface of the vagina or cervix and is prepared on a slide and stained for microscopic examination and cytological analysis. The appearance of the cells determines whether they are normal, suspicious, or cancerous. Although the test is 80% to 95% reliable, results termed suspicious may indicate infection or some abnormal condition other than cancer. The smear technique is also used to detect cancer of other tissues, e.g., in the bladder. The Pap test was developed by G. N. Papanicolaou and H. F. Traut in 1943.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.