The Pap test (also called Pap smear) is a very important cancer screening for women. Consider this, if every woman had regular Pap tests, cancer of the cervix (the lower, narrow part of the womb or uterus) could practically be eliminated.

  • The Pap test detects about 95 percent of cervical cancers.
  • The Pap test has lowered the death rate from cervical cancer by 70 percent in the last 50 years.
  • Each year, 15,000 women develop cervical cancer, and 5,000 die from it.
  • Half of the women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have never had a Pap test.
  • Ten percent of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer haven't had a Pap test in the last five years.

What You Need to Know

• You should have an annual Pap test and pelvic exam beginning at age 18 or when you become sexually active.
• Schedule your exam for between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your menstrual cycle for the best and most accurate results.
• The Pap test is simple and painless.
• Avoid douching for 72 hours prior to your Pap test. Avoid sexual relations for 24 hours after a Pap test.
• If you're contacted by your healthcare provider about an abnormal Pap test result, it doesn't mean you have cancer. You will need to return to your healthcare provider for additional testing.

If you have not had a Pap test during the past year, contact your healthcare provider to schedule one.