There’s a common misconception that women who aren’t sexually active can dispense with having a pap smear – but nothing could be further from the truth, Erin Higgins, MD, a gynecologist from the Cleveland Clinic told MSN News.

Higgins explains, “…there is a small percentage of cases [of cervical cancer] that are not due to sexual transmission. The Pap smear helps to detect changes caused by both types of cervical cancer.” So, starting at age 21, you need to get a Pap smear, no matter what.”

According to Dr. Higgins, regular HPV tests, which are also important, are most effective when teamed with pap smears over the course of one’s lifetime.

“For women ages 21 to 29, cervical cancer screening involves Pap smear testing alone. This is done every three years. For women ages 30 to 65, Pap smear testing is performed along with HPV testing (this is called cotesting). This is done every five years.”

Read more about the importance of Pap smears and an appropriate schedule for cervical cancer testing here.