What is a Pap Smear? The importance of having a regular pap smear (at least every 3 – 5 years) cannot be stressed enough. Cervical cancer is the most common form of genital malignancy in Africa. It is mostly found in women between the ages of 25 and 45 and often presents with abnormal genital bleeding. A pap smear will pick up cellular abnormalities which could indicate malignancy.