Women aged 21-65 are recommended to have a Pap test at least once every three years as a precautionary screening against cervical cancers and precancerous conditions that can be successfully treated when detected early. When combined with HPV testing, Pap tests may be administered somewhat less often (once every five years) after the age of 30, and this co-testing is considered the most effective means of detecting any abnormality. The Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, involves removal of a sample of cells from the cervix during a regular pelvic exam so that those cells can be examined under a microscope. The physician employs an instrument called a speculum to expand the vaginal opening for greater visualization, then uses special instruments to collect cells from the cervix. This quick test is not painful but may cause some discomfort.