Problems tackled: 43,462

A closer look at: the cervical cytology (smear/pap) test

Getting a smear (Pap) test is one of the best things you can do to prevent cervical cancer – it can save your life. If you are aged 21 to 65, you should get a smear (Pap) test as part of routine health care, even if you are not currently sexually active. It can find early signs of cervical cancer (precancerous). If caught early, treatment of abnormal cells can help prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.
  • The cervical cytology (or ‘smear’ or 'Pap') test is carried out to look for changes in the skin lining the part of the cervix that juts into the vagina. You will be asked to lie on your back with your legs bent and your knees parted.

Position for cervical cytology (smear or Pap) test

  • A plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, is inserted into the vagina to hold it open so that the cervix can be seen.

  • The doctor or nurse will examine the cervix and collect some cervical cells by gently brushing the cervix in a circular motion using a specially designed plastic ‘broom’ and possibly also a small brush.
Collection of cervical cells by smear (Pap) test
  • The cells are collected in a special fluid and will be examined under a microscope in the laboratory.
Collection of cervical cells for laboratory testing in smear (Pap) test


  • A cervical cytology (smear/Pap) test only takes a few minutes. It is not painful but can be a bit uncomfortable. Your doctor or nurse will be able to tell you how long it will take to get the test results.
  • If changes to the cells are found, they may be precancerous or cancerous. Precancers are cell changes that might become cancer if they are not treated in the right way. 

Written by:
Edited by:
Last updated: Monday, June 20th 2016


8 people have
tackled this problem!

Tell us your thoughts

Did you find what you were looking for?

Add a comment

Please note we cannot answer your questions directly. If you are concerned, please talk to your doctor.

Share your stories, tips and solutions here to help others tackle it, move on. As all comments are moderated, there will be a delay before your comment appears.

Discussion content reflects the view of individual participants only. Health Press Limited bear no responsibility for accuracy of participant comments and will bear no legal liability for discussion results. Comments will be moderated before posting and Health Press Limited reserves the right to delete any material. See About our site for our moderation policy


View what people have said about a closer look at cervical cytology smear pap test

Latest updates

Dr Phil's latest video
2nd July 2020

Anal itching (itchy bottom);
1st August 2018

Nail biting;
23rd April 2018

Nail problems;
23rd April 2018

Varicose veins;
19th April 2018

29th January 2018

embarrassing problems