Pap Smear Importance: Why You Need to See Your Doctor

A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure women need to have done every three to five years to test for cervical cancer. Starting at the age of 21 women, are advised by their OB-GYN to have this screening procedure for preventative measures. This procedure tests for precancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix. Today at SelfCollect, we want to teach about the importance of a Pap test and give you important details for your health and safety. 

Pap Test Importance

Pap tests can be slightly uncomfortable due to the sampling of cells. In the process, you will lie down onto the exam table and place your feet in stirrups. Your doctor will then begin the exam by scraping a few cells from your cervix as the sample. This tends to create a slight irritation during the exam, but it should not last long. After the examination, some women will experience cramping or bleeding, if this persists for more than 24 hours contact your doctor. 

Your doctor may recommend having a Pap test done more often if you have a history of abnormal Paps  or are HIV positive. Many women question if they can get tested for HPV with a Pap smear. Yes, you can! As we mentioned earlier, a Pap test is mainly to identify atypical cervical cells or cancer which is caused by HPV. Testing for HPV is the more sensitive method of detecting those women at greatest risk for cervical dysplasia and possibly cancer.

How Often Do You Need a Pap Test

Pap test screening should be done every one to three years, or as recommended by your doctor. Most OB-GYNs recommend that Pap smears should be started at the age of 21 for preventative measures. This is an important procedure to screen for cervical cancer. Above the age of 30, a Pap test may be combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV). 

Speak with your doctor to see how often you should receive a Pap test. Generally if you are 21 or older and sexually active, you should have a screening done every one to three years. At the age of 30, many doctors will recommend every three to five years including an HPV test. If you are 65 or older, some doctors may suggest that you no longer need a Pap test of HPV test done. This will often be recommended if your previous Pap tests were normal /negative and no history of HPV. 

Tips on Preparing for a Pap Test 

Scheduling a Pap test with your OB-GYN is simple by requesting one annually or speaking with your gynecologist on when your next exam should be. Most insurance plans will cover your Pap test examinations. Here are a few tips below to prepare for your exam: 

  • Avoid sexual intercourse the day before your exam 

  • Tell your doctor if you are menstruating during your exam as this can affect your results

  • Stay calm and relax 

Remember, the more relaxed you are the easier the exam goes! 


HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the United States and it the cause of cervical cancer. It can be contracted during sexual intercourse with anyone that is infected. It is important to remember that other STDs are not tested through a Pap test. You want to take control of your own health and test regularly. Order a self testing kit from SelfCollect today. Our system is completely private allowing you to collect your sample in the privacy of your own home, send in to our processing lab, and receive your results securely online. If you are concerned about HPV, order a test from us today. If you are concerned about any other potential STDs order a Panel Test today to cover multiple possibilities. We hope this article helps you understand the importance of the Pap test importance and make your next appointment with your OB-GYN soon.