NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,777 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

pelvic exam
(PEL-vik eg-ZAM)
A physical exam of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum. First, the area outside the vagina is checked for signs of disease. A speculum is then inserted into the vagina to widen it so the vagina and cervix can be checked for signs of disease. Cell samples may be taken for a Pap test, or to test for sexually transmitted diseases or other infections. The doctor or nurse then inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand to feel for lumps and check the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The rectum may also be checked for lumps or abnormal areas. Also called internal exam.

EnlargePelvic exam; drawing shows a side view of the female reproductive anatomy during a pelvic exam. The uterus, left fallopian tube, left ovary, cervix, vagina, bladder, and rectum are shown. Two gloved fingers of one hand of the doctor or nurse are shown inserted into the vagina, while the other hand is shown pressing on the lower abdomen. The inset shows a woman covered by a drape on an exam table with her legs apart and her feet in stirrups.

Pelvic exam. A doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum are also checked.

EnlargePap test; drawing shows a side view of the female reproductive anatomy during a Pap test. A speculum is shown widening the opening of the vagina. A brush is shown inserted into the open vagina and touching the cervix at the base of the uterus. The rectum is also shown. One inset shows the brush touching the center of the cervix. A second inset shows a woman covered by a drape on an exam table with her legs apart and her feet in stirrups.

Pap test. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to widen it. Then, a brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix. The cells are checked under a microscope for signs of disease.