Cervical cancer can often be medically prevented if early abnormalities in the cervix can be detected. Women, especially those at risk are encouraged to undergo regular screening tests (also called smear tests). These tests are not conducted to diagnose early. The screening involves removing cells from the cervical and vagina with a plastic brush and examining them under a microscope to look for early signs of damage, which if not treated can develop into cervical cancer. If the test shows abnormality, timely therapy can prevent the onset of cancer.
The patient will have to remove her clothing from the waist down and lie down on the examination table. You will be asked to bend your knees, put your ankles together and let the knees fall open. The closed speculum is inserted into the vagina and gently opened. This expands the vagina and brings the cervix into view. The doctor then inserts a special, thin brush into the vagina and gently scrapes some cells from the cervical surface. The smear is put into some liquid and sent away to a laboratory.
Cervical screening is not painful, though the speculum inserted can be uncomfortable to some women. Relaxing makes the experience more comfortable for you and easier for the person retrieving the sample. Sometimes, the same sample is also tested for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is also known to cause cancer of the cervix.
Though the procedure does not require any preparation, it might be helpful to discuss it with your health care team to assuage any concerns you may have..