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.

Papanicolaou test
(PA-puh-NIH-koh-low...)
A procedure in which a small brush or spatula is used to gently remove cells from the cervix so they can be checked under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. A Papanicolaou test may also help find other conditions, such as infections or inflammation. It is sometimes done at the same time as a pelvic exam and may also be done at the same time as a test for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Also called Pap smear and Pap test.

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.