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Keywords:

  • cervical cancer screening;
  • conventional Pap smear;
  • cytology;
  • European guidelines;
  • liquid-based cytology;
  • sample collection

The current paper presents an annex in the second edition of the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Cervical Cancer Screening. It provides guidance on how to make a satisfactory conventional Pap smear or a liquid-based cytology (LBC) sample.

Practitioners taking samples for cytology should first explain to the woman the purpose, the procedure and how the result will be communicated.

Three sampling methods are considered as acceptable for preparing conventional Pap smears: (i) the cervical broom; (ii) the combination of a spatula and an endocervical brush; and (iii) the extended tip spatula. Smear takers should take care to sample the entire circumference of the transformation zone, to quickly spread the cellular material over a glass slide, and to fix the preparation within a few seconds to avoid drying artefacts. According to local guidelines, one of these three methods may be preferred. Sampling with a cotton tip applicator is inappropriate.

Similar procedures should be followed for sampling cells for LBC, but only plastic devices may be used. The collected cells should be quickly transferred into a vial with fixative liquid according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the LBC system.

Subsequently, the slide or vial and the completed request form are sent to the laboratory for cytological interpretation.