Each year, individuals with female reproductive systems need to schedule an appointment with an OB-GYN. Often, these appointments will include a Pap smear, which screens for cervical cancer. If you want to learn more about this procedure before making an appointment with a doctor, review these frequently asked questions. 

4 FAQ About Pap Smears

Why are Pap smears important?

During these tests, your OB-GYN will take a sample of cells from your cervix, the area at the bottom of the uterus. The sample can be tested for abnormal cells, which may point to the presence of cervical cancer. Like many other types of cancer, early detection is key to eradicating the disease, so it’s important to get tested regularly.

When should I start getting these tests?

Most OB-GYNs recommend patients begin getting tested around age 21. Once you turn 65, you may be able to stop regular testing. If you have had a full hysterectomy for a condition other than cancer, you may be able to discontinue routine Pap smears as well.

What can I expect from the appointment?


You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down, put on a cloth gown or blanket, and lie back on the examination table with your heels in the stirrups. Your doctor will insert a speculum to enlarge the vaginal opening, then use a narrow tool to extract the sample from your cervix. You may feel a slight pinch or scraping sensation but no significant pain. 

How often should I schedule future Pap smears?

From the ages of 21 to 29, you should receive a Pap smear at least once every three years. However, you may still need a pelvic exam every year. Once you turn 30 and until the age of 65, you can reduce the frequency of the tests to every five years. Some people may need more frequent Pap tests at any age, such as those who are HIV-positive


If you’re due for your next Pap smear, reach out to Peninsula Community Health Services of Soldotna, AK. Their accommodating team of doctors caters to everything from uterine health to psychiatry and dental care. They’ll make it easy for you to afford the treatment you need, whether you have Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance. For a closer look at their services, visit the website. You can also contact the medical department by calling (907) 262-3119 today.