The pap smear is one of the established methods for screening and early detection of cervical cancer. It should be performed at regular intervals to be effective. A small amount of cells is obtained from the cervix using a soft plastic brush. The entire procedure should take no more than 1-2 minutes and is usually painless. Women who have never had sexual intercourse do not need to have pap smears.
The accuracy of the pap smear is highly dependent on many factors including the expertise & experience of the smear-taker, and competence of the laboratory performing the test. In recent years, the pap smear is gradually being replaced or improved by the use of HPV testing (see below).