What is the ovarian Pap test?

The Pap smear test looks for precancer cells in the cervix. These cells can exist in this form for many years before they become invasive cervical cancer, meaning there are multiple opportunities to intervene during the precancerous stage.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Angela T. Valle, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Receiving routine preventative care is paramount to good health, and this includes having regular Pap smears. The bottom line is that preventative care saves lives, so it’s important to have your yearly gynecological checkup. There's no shame if you've gone a few extra years without getting a Pap smear or pelvic exam. The important thing is that you go and get it done.

Most women are familiar with the basic process: a speculum is inserted into the vagina in order to sample cells from the surface and canal of the cervix. The cells are then sent to a lab, where they are checked for abnormal cell growth, also known as dysplasia, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or CIN.

The impact of the Pap smear on the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer is one of the most dramatic success stories in public health. In many developing countries, where Pap tests are not done as widely as they are here, cervical cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death among women aged 35 to 45. In the United States, the rate has been extremely low since the 1960s, after routine Pap smears were introduced.

This content originally appeared on

The Pap test, or Pap smear, is a simple screening test for cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the narrow lower part of the uterus, which forms the opening between the uterus and the vagina. In this test, a few cells are taken from the cervix and sent to the lab to be studied. The Pap test checks for cell changes that could lead to cancer.

Although you may feel healthy, abnormal changes can appear without any symptoms. Regular testing gives you the best chance of finding changes in the cells of the cervix before they turn into cancer. When cancer of the cervix is found early, chances for a cure are good.

After your Pap test (a simple screening test for cancer of the cervix), the cells are sent to a medical lab and the results will come back to your doctor or nurse. Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get your Pap test results. Your doctor or nurse will call you and discuss the results. An abnormal Pap test does not always mean cancer. Most of the time it only means that you may need more tests.

Always tell your healthcare provider about any unusual vaginal discharge, too much bleeding during your period, bleeding between periods, pelvic pain or rectal bleeding. These are not always signs of cancer—but they can be. If you have questions about your risk for cervical cancer, please discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

The Pap test is just a screening test and if it is abnormal then you will need a colposcopy to see if there are any abnormal or suspicious areas on your cervix.

Call your doctor if you experience severe pain, heavy bleeding, vaginal discharge or itching after a Pap test. The test results should be back in 1-2 weeks and call if you have not heard the results in 2 weeks.

Dr. David A. Fishman, MD
Gynecologic Oncologist

The ovarian Pap test is a developing tool to detect precancerous or early cancerous changes on the ovaries. Utilizing minimally invasive office laparoscopy to directly visualize the ovaries, the ovarian Pap test allows the collection of cells from the surface of the ovary and from the peritoneal cavity using a laparoscopic cytologic sampling instrument similar to the cytobrush used in the cervical Pap test. The laparoscopic sampling instrument allows separation and individualization of both the ovarian specimen and the peritoneal specimen. Similar to the cervical Pap smear, collected epithelial cells are analyzed by a cytopathologist to determine whether abnormalities are present.

Continue Learning about Gynecology

The New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
The New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
On an episode of the controversial show Girls, Hannah finds out she’s contracted HPV. When she tells her friend Shoshanna, Shoshanna says, “Jessa has ...
Read More
Why would I need a hysterectomy?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
There are many reasons that women may need a hysterectomy. There are very serious situations, such a...
More Answers
8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing
8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing
From recovery time to your post-surgery sex life, we’re debunking some of the common misconceptions.
Start Slideshow
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.