A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at
the top of your vagina.
Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. A Pap smear can
also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these
abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical

Why it’s done
A Pap smear is used to screen for cervical cancer.
The Pap smear is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. In women older than age 30, the Pap
test may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted
infection that can cause cervical cancer. In some cases, the HPV test may be done instead of a Pap

Who should have a Pap smear?
You and your doctor can decide when it’s time for you to begin Pap testing and how often you should
have the test.
In general, doctors recommend beginning Pap testing at age 21.

How often should a Pap smear be repeated?
Doctors generally recommend repeating Pap testing every three years for women ages 21 to 65.
Women age 30 and older can consider Pap testing every five years if the procedure is combined with
testing for HPV. Or they might consider HPV testing instead of the Pap test.
If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more-frequent Pap smears, regardless of
your age. These risk factors include:

  • A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
  • HIV infection
  • Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic
    corticosteroid use
  • A history of smoking

You and your doctor can discuss the benefits