A pap smear is a simple test done in a doctor’s office or clinic usually during a yearly gynecological exam. It’s also called a pap test, cervical smear, cervical test or Papanikolaou test. The purpose of this test is to detect cell abnormalities that could lead to cancer, as well as other diseases. It is not an STD test–those often involve blood work.
The pap smear was invented by a Greek man, Georgios Papanikolaou in the early 20th century. Even though it was conceived in 1928, it wasn’t widely used and/or known about until 1943 when it was put forth in the book Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear. Since pap smear testing started, the numbers of cervical cancer have decreased dramatically over the years. Cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer death for women; now it has dropped to number 15. The death rate from cervical cancer has dropped over 70% due to pap smear testing.