Preventing cervical cancer often depends on early detection. The Pap smear, or Pap test, collects cells from the patient’s cervix. The cells are tested for active cancer cells or abnormalities which suggest cancer may form. After age 21, most women should have a Pap smear done every 3 years, typically as part of a pelvic exam. After age 30, the Pap smear may be combined with testing for the human papilloma virus, or HPV. This is a common sexually transmitted disease that may contribute to cervical cancer in older women. Generally, women over age 65 no longer require Pap testing, nor do those who have had a hysterectomy for reasons other than cancer.