The Papanicolaou test (also called Pap smear, Pap test, cervical smear, or smear test) was invented by Georgios Nikolaou Papanikolaou. He was a Greek pioneer in cytopathology and early cancer detection. The PAP test is a screening test to detect possible pre-cancerous and cancerous cells of the endo-cervical canal. A plastic a speculum is used to open the vaginal canal, and an applicator is used to very gently collect cells from the end of the cervix. Special stains are added to the specimen, which is sent to a lab for processing. Cervical cancers are typically caused by sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPV) which most females contract soon after first becoming sexually active. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other experts recommend starting screening at age 21 (or between ages 20 to 60, and definitely while sexually active. The test is not painful, though it can be temporarily uncomfortable.
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