Cervical cytology became the standard screening test for cervical cancer and premalignant cervical lesions. Cytologic examinations may be performed on body fluids (examples are blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid) or on material that is aspirated (drawn out via suction into a syringe) of the body. Cytology also can involve examinations of preparations that are scraped or washed (irrigated with a sterile solution) from specific areas of the body. For example, a common example of diagnostic cytology is the evaluation of cervical smears (referred to as the Papanicolaou test or Pap smear).
There are several methods to screen for cervical cancer. The Pap test (also known as Pap smear or conventional cytology) and liquid-based cytology are widely used throughout the world and have been credited with greatly reducing the number of cases and mortality from cervical cancer in the developed world. Cytology-based tests have not been as effective in developing countries, leading to an investigation of cervical screening approaches more suited to low-resource settings such as visual inspection with acetic acid or HPV DNA testing.