The key difference between biopsy and pap smear is that biopsy is a diagnostic test that detects the presence of malignant cells in any part of the body, while a pap smear is a diagnostic test that detects malignant cells in the cervix and vagina.
There are many cancers related to the female reproductive system, including cervical cancers, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancers. Physicians conduct different tests to detect malignant cells and confirm the presence of cancer. A biopsy is the most common technique used in the detection of any type of cancer and is not only limited to the detection of reproductive cancers in women. A pap smear is a unique test for women to identify the abnormalities in their cervix and vagina.
What is a Biopsy?
A biopsy is a medical procedure that involves obtaining a small tissue sample of the body to examine under a microscope to identify and confirm the presence of malignant cells. During a biopsy, the investigation of cell abnormalities is used for the detection of functional abnormalities and structural abnormalities. During the study under a microscope, the tissue sample provides information about different disease conditions such as cancers (aggressiveness of cancer and type), the severity of inflammations, different types of infections such as tuberculosis, and different skin conditions.
Physicians conduct biopsies in multiple ways: punch biopsy, needle biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, excision biopsy, and perioperative biopsy. The most common biopsy types are needle biopsy and excision biopsy. During a needle biopsy, a special needle obtains a tissue sample guided by a CT scan, MRI scan, or X-ray from an organ or a tissue beneath the skin for analysis. The type of biopsy depends on the targeted tissue type. Most biopsies use a local anesthetic. Hence, it is not required to stay overnight. Excision biopsies might require surgical procedures depending on the site of the targeted tissue. Biopsies can be done on both men and women.
What is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is a test where a small piece of equipment collects cells from the cervix and surrounding area for the diagnosis of cervical cancers in women. It also helps to identify other abnormalities such as infections and inflammations present in the cervix area. Physicians use a microscope to observe the sample cells.
A pap smear is also used to detect the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). Pap smear is also known as pap test or papanicolaou test. Physicians advise all women to do pap smear tests every three years between the ages of 21 to 65. If an individual is diagnosed with cervical cancer or premalignant cells, HIV infection, a weakened immune system, or exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth, the regularity of the pap smear test should be increased. Before the pap smear test (48 hours before), the individual should refrain from sexual intercourse, using lubricants, using sprays or powders near the vagina, rinsing the vagina with water or other fluid, etc. A pap smear is a cost-effective, safe procedure.
What are the Similarities Between Biopsy and Pap Smear?
- Biopsy and pap smear are two diagnostic tests.
- Moreover, both are used in cancer diagnosis.
- The tests require expert handling.
- Both tests require the use of a microscope to observe sample cells.
- Moreover, they provide accurate results in terms of diagnosis.
What is the Difference Between Biopsy and Pap Smear?
A biopsy is a diagnostic test done to detect the presence of malignant cells in any part of the body, while a pap smear is a diagnostic test done to detect malignant cells in the cervix and vagina. This is the key difference between biopsy and pap smear. A biopsy can be done in both men and women, while a pap smear is done only on women. Moreover, biopsies are of many types (punch biopsy, needle biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, excision biopsy, and perioperative biopsy), while pap smears don’t contain any sub-categories.
The following table summarizes the difference between biopsy and pap smear.
Summary – Biopsy vs Pap Smear
A biopsy is done to detect the presence of malignant cells in any part of the body. A pap smear is done to detect malignant cells in the cervix and vagina. In a biopsy, a small tissue sample of the body is taken to examine under a microscope to identify and confirm the presence of malignant cells. In a pap smear, a small piece of equipment collects cells from the cervix and surrounding area for the diagnosis of cervical cancers in women. Moreover, local anesthetic is used during a biopsy depending on the type of tissue or organ, but no anesthetic is used for pap smears. This summarizes the difference between biopsy and pap smear.
1. “How Biopsy Procedures Are Used to Diagnose Cancer.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
2. “Pap Test (Pap Smear): Purpose, Procedure, Results, Frequency.” WebMD.
1. “Needle Breast Biopsy” By BruceBlaus – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Normal PAP (Cervical) Smear” By Department of Pathology, Calicut Medical College – Calicut Medical College, (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia