Papanicolaou Test and Results

Papanicolaou test, also called as pap test and cervical smear, is to screen for cervical cancer and certain vaginal or uterine infections.

What does the test result mean?
Slides showing possible Pap test results
Various normal and abnormal cervical cells as seen under a microscope.

A “negative” Pap test means the cells obtained appear normal or there is no identifiable infection.

According to Pap Test Terminology on the Bethesda System, other results of the pap test include:

  • Unsatisfactory: inadequate sampling or other interfering substance.
  • Benign: non-cancerous cells, but test shows infection, irritation, or normal cell repair.
  • Atypical cells of uncertain significance: abnormal changes in the cells that cover most of the external part of the cervix (squamous cells-ASCUS) or in the cells that cover the lining of the uterus opening and canal (glandular cells—AGCUS)
  • Low-Grade changes: frequently due to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), which in some instances can be a risk for cervical cancer; this test result may be followed up with DNA testing to identify the presence of a high-risk HPV infection.
  • High-Grade changes: very atypical cells that may result in cancer
  • Squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma: terms used to identify certain types of cancer; in these cases, cancer is evident and requires immediate attention.

Keywords: papanicolaou test; pap test; cervical smear

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.