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Women ages 21-65 should have a Pap smear on a regular basis. How often you do depends on your overall health and whether or not you’ve had an abnormal Pap smear in the past.


A Pap smear is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. It involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina.

Why The Test is Performed

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 cancer.

Abnormal Test Results

If your results come back positive, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. There are several reasons you could have an abnormal Pap smear.


Mild inflammation or minor cell changes (dysplasia)


HPV or other infection


Cancer or pre-cancer

Additional Resources

Learn more from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists