Papanicolaou Smear

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


In the 1940s, cervical cancer was a principal cause of death for women of childbearing age in the United States. Dr. George Papanicolaou was a Greek immigrant who initially began his academic career studying the reproductive cycles of guinea pigs. After moving to the United States, he held a position in the anatomy department at Cornell University. He changed his focus of study to human physiology and began collaborating with gynecological pathologist Dr. Herbert Traut. While working together at Cornell University, they published Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Pap Smear in 1943. This significant work detailed how normal and abnormal vaginal and cervical cells could be viewed under a microscope and how they should be classified. Not long after that, the Pap Smear became the gold standard in cervical cancer screening, and it is still the primary screening tool for cervical cancer today.

Publication types

  • Study Guide