The tools used for performing a Pap smear include a speculum, a plastic spatula and a small brush, according to WebMD. The sample cells are placed into a solution before being sent to the lab for testing.
A Pap smear test is used to detect anomalies in the cells of the cervix or vagina that may develop into cancer. The test is the best way to detect precancerous conditions that may lead to cervical cancer. The test is available for all women after the age of 21 in the United States as part of a routine screening program. It is recommended every 3 years for women between the ages of 21 and 65. During the test, a nurse or a doctor opens the vagina slightly with a speculum and scrapes cells from the cervix area with a spatula or a small brush. The sample cells are then taken to the lab for examination and the patient receives the results after a couple of weeks. Abnormal results do not necessarily mean a cancer diagnosis, but further tests may be required to rule it out, especially for women with a family history of cervical cancer. The test is usually not painful, but it may cause some discomfort that is similar to menstrual cramps.