Papanicolaou Smear

Papanicolaou Smear


The patient should be instructed to avoid douching or using vaginal creams for at least 24 hours before her examination. Also, Papanicolaou smears should not be obtained during menstruation because the red blood cells may obscure the sample. Sampling should be done before a bimanual pelvic examination, and the use of lubrication should be avoided if possible. However, water used to warm the speculum will not affect the sample. After the patient is positioned in the dorsal lithotomy position, choose a speculum that allows visualization of the entire cervix. Note any abnormalities of the cervix at this time.



Liquid-based screening systems have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and were developed to improve the transfer of cells from the collection device to the slide, provide uniformity of the cell population in each sample, and thus decrease interpretationai errors. The two systems currently available are ThinPrep and SurePath. Liquid-based cytology has been shown to result in an increased detection rate of both low-grade and high-grade cervical dysplasia, as well as a decrease in the ambiguous diagnosis of atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS). An added benefit of liquid-based cytology systems is the ability to perform “reflex” human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, if desired. For this and other reasons, many health care providers have made liquid-based cytology their test system of choice despite higher cost.

In the ThinPrep test kit, cervical specimens are collected in the usual fashion with either a broom-type device or a spatula and endocervical brush, and cells are collected directly in the methanol-based fixation liquid.



Table 1 lists the classification of Papanicolaou smears.



Bethesda System WHO System CIN System Class
Within normal Normal Normal I
Infection/reactive Inflammatory   II
and reparative atypia    
Squamous cell Squamous CIN  
abnormalities: atypia    
atypical squamous      
cells of undetermined      
Squamous Dysplasia   III
Low-grade SIL: HPV Mild CIN I  
High-grade SIL Moderate CIN II  
  Severe CIN III IV
  Carcinoma CIN IV  
  in situ    
Squamous cell cancer Squamous Squamous V
  cell cancer cell cancer  

SIL, Squamous intraepithelial lesion; HPV, human papillomavirus; CIN, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

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