A pap smear, or pap test is a type of screening test that checks for cervical cancer or other cervical abnormalities that might lead to cancer. During this test, your physician will look at the vulva as well as the cervix with a speculum. He or she will collect a small sample of cells that are spread on a slide or mixed in a liquid and sent to a laboratory to be reviewed under a microscope for abnormalities.

How often you have a pap smear depends on your age and whether or not you have had abnormal pap smear results in the past. In general, women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a pap smear every year at their routine exam. If you’re between the ages of 30 and 64, a pap smear could be done every other year during your yearly exam unless otherwise recommended by your doctor.