The Pap test is the standard of care for early detection of cervical cancer.

A physician will order a Pap test in order to determine if there are any changes in the cells of the cervix. In order to perform the test, your physician first must collect a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix. The sample is then examined in a laboratory with a microscope for abnormal cell growth or changes, including cervical cancer.

Pap Testing Guidelines

In late 2009, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) revised its guidelines for cervical cancer testing using Pap screening.

Under the new guidelines:

  • Most women should be screened for the first time at the age of 21.
  • Most women younger than 30 should undergo cervical screening once every two years.
  • Women age 30 and older can be rescreened once every three years.

These guidelines are for healthy women. Different screening schedules are recommended for women who have experienced abnormal Pap tests or other health conditions that may put them at greater risk for cervical cancer.

Women should speak with their physicians for more information about these guidelines and the best approach for their medical needs. Your health care professional is the best source of information.

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