Am I due for my Pap smear?

January 24, 2017

Updated guidelines for getting a Pap smear

pap smearIt may seem like the recommendations for how often you need to undergo a Pap smear are impossible to keep track of! Below is an update on the guidelines for this important screening test for women.

What is a Pap smear?

The Pap smear, which can detect cervical cancer and pre-cancerous changes, is a critical part of preventive care for women. This test, which is performed by your women’s health provider, involves an internal exam where the cervix is examined and a sample of cells is taken using a brush to identify abnormalities that could be cancerous.

When do I need a Pap smear?

The guidelines for how often Pap smears are recommended have changed within the past few years, largely because we now have a better understanding of the link between cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV). We also now know that many abnormalities found on Pap smears may resolve on their own over time in healthy women.

Here are the most current recommendations regarding Pap smear intervals for healthy women:

  • You don’t need to begin Pap smear testing until you are at least 21 years of age.

  • From 21 to 30 years of age, Pap smear testing is recommended every three years.

  • After 30 years of age, Pap smear testing may continue every three years. However, if your provider combines Pap tests with tests for HPV, the combined test may be performed every five years.

  • In women who have not had any significant abnormal Pap tests in their lifetime, and who have been screened regularly, Pap smears may be stopped at 65 years of age.

  • Pap smear tests are still recommended for women who received the HPV vaccination series.

Again, this summary provides recommendations for women with no other health complications. Like any preventive care service, discuss your testing options and your health history with your own provider. A comprehensive review of Pap smear testing from the United States Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) can be found by clicking here.

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