The Pap smear is one of the modern success stories in the field of preventive medicine. Since its introduction as a screening test, there has been a dramatic reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer. However, the search for a better screening test continues. The new technologies, including liquid-based cytology (LBC), Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing and automated or machine-assisted screening have been introduced. However, there is continuous debate about whether society's limited resources are better spent on reaching the underserved rather than on these technologies. Another question is whether these technologies create yet another kind of disparity in delivering preventive care. For example, despite the wide use of LBC (99% of tests submitted to our laboratory are LBC), conventional Pap smears are still used to screen/follow up some women. It is not clear why some providers continue to prefer conventional smear over LBC and what are the barriers for adopting LBC in cervical cancer screening. We hypothesize the lower cost of conventional compared to LBC Pap testing, patient's lower socio-economic indices, a patient's medical history and provider's subspecialty/training all appear to play a role in the choice of using conventional Pap testing rather than LBC. Unintentionally, this choice results in repeat testing, delayed treatment and potentially higher costs than intended. The ultimate goal of this review article is to understand and explore possible barriers and disparities to adopting new technology in cancer screening. © 2007 Jhala and Eltoum; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.