Why You Need a Pap Smear: Cervical Cancer Screening Saves Lives

A pap smear is a test that screens for cervical cancer in women. The earlier abnormal cells are detected, the more options there are to prevent cervical cancer. Depending on your age, your health history and your physician’s recommendation, the test is done every 1 to 3 years.

The pap smear test is usually done at a general physician or gynecologist’s office. Completed as a part of a pelvic exam during a gynecologic checkup, it involves collecting cells from the cervix, which is located at the top of the vagina and the bottom of the uterus. If the results show abnormal cells, your doctor may also do a follow-up visit.

When to Get a Pap Smear

  • Women ages 21 – 65: Every year, or every three years if your pap smear is normal.
  • Women over age 65: May discontinue screening at a provider’s recommendation if you have had normal test results for several years.

The presence of abnormal cells does not mean that you have cervical cancer, but it does help to determine the next course of action. Generally this includes additional testing, in-office procedures or a biopsy.

Learn more about cervical cancer screening guidelines from the CDC.

Need to find a doctor?

If you have questions about cervical cancer screening, speak with your doctor. Memorial Physician Services –  Women’s Healthcare in central Illinois has experienced OB/GYN specialists who can help to diagnose and treat your condition.

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