On the 13th of May, 2019, Google honoured the inventor of Pap Smear Test – Georgios Papanikolaou. The pioneering scientist would have been 136 years old Monday. The researcher is honoured with the May 13 Google Doodle, which celebrates his birthday — and his most important invention: The Pap smear.
A Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is an exam a doctor uses to test for cervical cancer in women. It can also reveal changes in your cervical cells that may turn into cancer later.
It is estimated that Pap smear screening has prevented between 105,000 and 492,000 cases of cervical cancer in the US over the past three decades.
The son of a doctor, Papanikolaou initially considered another field, but by the age of 15, he was starting medical school. Six years later, he graduated with top honours. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1913, initially working as a carpet salesman and playing violins in restaurants until Cornell recruited him to join their staff.
To conduct a study for his research, he not only convinced his wife (and lab technician) Mary to be a test subject, but also a group of close friends, taking vaginal smears and studying them under a microscope for malignant cells. In conducting that research, he found that one of his wife’s friends had cervical cancer.
So how is a pap smear done?
It’s done in your doctor’s office or clinic and takes about 10 to 20 minutes.
You’ll lie on a table with your feet placed firmly in stirrups. You’ll spread your legs, and your doctor will insert a metal or plastic tool (speculum) into your vagina. He’ll open it so that it widens the vaginal walls. This allows him to see your cervix. Your doctor will use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix. He’ll place them into a liquid substance in a small jar, and send them to a lab for review.
The procedure is not painful.