Introduction     Reproduction     Pregnancy     During Pregnancy
    Birth     Postnatal     Childhood Illness     Glossary A-Z

 External Organs
 Internal Organs
 Common Problems
 Common Procedures
 Female Hormones
Pelvic Exam & Pap Smear

Description and Purpose

A pelvic exam and Papanicolaou smear , also known as a pap test/smear , are where the doctor inspects and examines the reproductive organs and takes a sample of cervical tissue for microscopic examination in a laboratory. These examinations are used to diagnose any abnormalities that the doctor can feel or see without a microscope or that will show up on analysis of tissue from the cervix.

Preparation and Procedure

The pelvic exam begins with an examination of the external genitals organs (vulva, labia majora and minora, clitoris). An instrument called a speculum is then inserted into the vagina to hold it open and allow the doctor to inspect the vaginal tissue and cervix. At this time, a swab can be inserted into the vagina to collect a sample of cells for a Pap smear.
If you have vaginitis or the doctor suspects an infectious disease, a sample of vaginal discharge may also be taken.
The doctor will also insert one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina while pressing down on the abdomen with the other hand. The doctor will then insert one finger into the rectum and one into the vagina while continuing to press down on the abdomen. These steps help detect structural anomalies or abnormal growths (cf. cancer and fibroids ).

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient's Guide to Medical Tests, Barry L. Zaret M.D., Senior Editor, published by Houghton Mifflin. Online:

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Pelvic Examination
Papanicolaou Smear
    From HONselect
     (def;articles & more)   

Vaginal Smears:
UNSW Embryology

    Recent articles

Vaginal Smears


About us

Site map




Contact Last modified: Oct 20 2004