If you thought you had to get a pap every year, you have a pleasant surprise the next time you go to your doctor’s office. While it used to be recommended that women get a pap at each annual well woman visit, today scientists have discovered that cervical cancer takes much longer to develop. Due to this, a pap is no longer required annually for most patients.
But if you don’t need one every year, how often should you get a pap? The answer depends on several factors, including age. Here are some of the latest guidelines.
You don’t need to start pap smears until age 21, and throughout your 20s you will only need to get a pap every three years. The only exception is if there is a complication or an abnormal result that requires more careful monitoring.
During your 30s you will still get paps only once every three years with a normal result. The biggest difference is that after age 30 your pap will include a test for HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer. If your pap comes back that you have HPV, you will need to get pap screens more frequently.
Your 40s and on
How often you should get a pap after age 40 depends mostly on your reproductive health. If you have had a hysterectomy, the only reason for a pap is to test for cervical or endometrial cancer. Most other women will need to continue screenings every 3 years until age 65, even if you enter menopause before then.
Is it time for your next well-woman exam and pap smear? Contact us today to schedule your appointment.