A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, or a Papanicolau smear, is a screening test for cervical cancer. It is a medical procedure that involves collecting cells from a woman's cervix (the lower part of the uterus) to screen for abnormalities and signs of cancer. During the procedure, a healthcare provider uses a tool to gently scrape the surface of the cervix, which collects a small sample of cells. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis, where it is examined for any abnormal changes. Pap smears are important for detecting early signs of cervical cancer, as well as other conditions such as infections and inflammation.
It is recommended that women start getting Pap smears at age 21, and continue getting them every three years until age 65, or as recommended by their healthcare provider.