Experts recommend that all women of reproductive age, who are over the age of 21, get a Pap smear – also called a Pap test – every two or three years. Pap smears are screening tests for cervical cancer. Getting regular Pap smears are one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer, and over the past 50 years, these tests have led to a major decrease in the number of cervical cancer deaths.
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women around the world. In the earliest stages, cervical cancer has no symptoms. Advanced stages of cervical cancer are difficult to treat, since the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body, including the woman’s liver, bladder intestines and lungs. Because cervical cancer can take years to develop, getting regular Pap smears can detect it in its precancerous stage (called dysplasia). Dysplasia is 100 percent treatable and will prevent the cancer from progressing.
A majority of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular Pap smears.