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What is a pap smear? When should I have one?

A pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It is not a diagnostic test. It alerts the clinician to take a closer look. It is done during a speculum exam. Screening should start by 3 years after first intercourse or age 21, whichever comes first. Women aged 21-30 should have them done yearly. If a woman aged 30 and above has a negative result on 3 consecutive annual paps, they she may be re-screened every 2-3 years. If the patient has a negative pap and a negative HPV assay, she should be re-screened in 3 years. Most medical bodies recommend discontinuing cervical cancer screening between ages 65 and 70.

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