Women should have pap smears every 1-3 years from the age of 21 or when they become sexually active. Most women can have the test every 3 years, although women with a family history of cervical cancer, HPV, or an IUD should have annual screenings. The purpose of a pap smear is to screen for cervical cancer and other conditions such as HPV. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has a direct link to cervical cancer. Early detection is an essential part of effective treatment for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer doesn’t typically present symptoms in its early stages, so regular screening is the only way to monitor this part of your health.