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Smear test

smear test

Diagnosis using a smear test

The cervix is the lowest part of the womb (uterus). It is often called the neck of the womb. A smear test is performed to prevent cervical cancer, not to diagnose cancer. During each test some cells are removed from the cervix, with a plastic brush. The cells are examined under a microscope to look for early changes that, if ignored and not treated, could develop into cancer of the cervix.

What to expect during a smear test

You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist down or if you are wearing a loose skirt you may be asked to remove your underwear only. You will be asked to lie on your back on the examination couch and bend your knees, put your ankles together, and let your knees fall open. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. This gently opens the vagina and allows the cervix to be seen (at the top of the vagina). A thin plastic stick with a small brush at the end is then used to gently scrape some cells from the surface of the cervix. The cells that are obtained on the brush are examined in the laboratory.

Cervical screening tests are not painful, although some women find the speculum uncomfortable. It generally helps if you can relax – this makes the experience better for you.

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