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Frequently Asked Questions About Pap Tests?

  • What is the purpose of a Pap test?


The Pap test is a way of checking the cervix to see if any abnormal cells or cancerous cells are present. When performing a Pap test, a nurse practitioner or doctor uses a very small brush or spatula to remove cells from the cervix. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a fluid that is sent to a laboratory for testing.

  • When should a woman get a Pap test?


The Ohio Department of Health's Breast and Cervical Cancer Project follows the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for screening services. If you are ages 21 to 29, you should get a Pap test every 3 years. If you are ages 30 to 65 and only get a Pap test, you should be screened every 3 years. If you are ages 30 to 65 and get both a Pap test and an HPV (human papillomavirus) test, you should be screened every 5 years. If you are older than 66, ask your doctor is cervical cancer screening is recommended for you. Please note: if you get the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV at a laboratory. Talk with your doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider about whether the HPV test is right for you.

  • Where could I go to get a Pap test?


You can get a Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) at your doctor's office or clinic as part of a well woman visit. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) virtually all health insurance plans cover a pap test with no copay or deductible. Check your plan's coverage for more information. For those without insurance, check your eligibility for a free Pap test with the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP). 


Note: The information given above is for educational purposes only. These questions and answers should not replace a discussion with a doctor if you think you might have breast or cervical cancer.

For More Information

For more information about pap tests, visit the BCCP Resources Page.


Last Reviewed 05/08/2018