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Papanicolaou's smear

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Cytodiagnostic test for early detection of cervical cancer. It involves collecting material from areas of the body that shed cells or in which shed cells collect, especially the cervix and vagina. This cytological material is then prepared for microscopic study by special staining – Papanicolaou's stain. The Pap smear is a painless procedure. The use of Papanicolaou's smear test has led to a major reduction in death from cervical cancer.

The fact that malignant cells could be seen under the microscope was first pointed out in a book on diseases of the lung, written Walter Hayle Walshe (1812-1892), professor and physician to University College Hospital, London, in 1843. This fact was recounted by Papanicolaou, who, in all modesty, did not claim that he originated the technique.

The first to suggest cytologic screening was the Romanian Pathologist Aureli Babès (1853-1925), professor of chemistry at the veterinary high school in Bucuresti. His work was published in La presse médicale, Paris, in 1926. Aureli Babès was the brother of Victor Babès (1854-1926).


  • W. H. Walshe:
    Physical Diagnosis of Diseases of the Lungs. London, 1843; Philadelphia, 1843. On the nature and treatment of cancer. London, Taylor & Walton, 1846.
  • G. N. Papanicolaou:
    New cancer diagnosis.
    Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, January 1928.
    Race Betterment Foundation, Battle Creek, Michigan, 1928: 528-534.
  • G. N. Papanicolaou and H. F. Traut:
    The diagnostic value of vaginal smears in carcinoma of the uterus.
    American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Louis, 1941, 42: 193-206.
  • G. N. Papanicolaou and Herbert Frederick Traut:
    Diagnosis of uterine cancer by the vagina smear.
    Commonwealth Fund, New York, 1943.

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