To most women, the annual gynecological (gyn) exam and the pap smear are the same thing. Actually they are not. The pap is a test invented by Dr. Papanicolou, a Greek gynecologist who devised the pap smear as way of detecting cervical cancer in its early stages. Done as part of the annual gyn exam, the doctor or midwife rubs a brush and spatula in the cervix to obtain cells that will be sent to a laboratory. The lab technician looks at the cells for early signs of cervical cancer.
The Pap has now made advanced cervical cancer very rare. New laboratory techniques and the ability to check for HPV (human papilloma virus) as well as improved testing guidelines have improved the screening test for cervical care. Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure.