What women need to know about the current Pap smear recommendations.
In recent years, researchers and physicians have learned more about the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer, leading to new pap smear recommendations. This information has led to co-testing, meaning our OBGYNs perform both an HPV screening and pap smear in women ages 31 to 65.
Why did the interval between pap smears change? Studies found that annual testing led to more false-positive results and additional procedures, such as biopsies. In addition, cervical cancer starts as precancerous cells that grow slowly, and the new intervals still allow physicians to detect cancer in its early, most treatable stages.
What are the screening recommendations for average-risk women?
Here are the pap smear recommendations that apply to most women:
- Ages under 21 years do not need cervical cancer screening.
- Ages 21 to 29 years have a pap smear only every one to three years.
- Ages 30 to 65 years should have co-testing, meaning a pap smear and an HPV test, every three to five years.
- Ages 65 and older do not need screening tests.
If you have the HPV vaccine, you still need to follow these pap smear recommendations. If you’ve had a hysterectomy where your cervix wasn’t removed, you also need screening.
Which women are the exceptions to these guidelines?
There are exceptions to current pap smear guidelines. For example, if you are exposed to DES, or diethylstilbestrol, you need to have cervical cancer screening more frequently. If you’ve had a hysterectomy and your cervix removed, you still need to have screening tests for 20 years after the surgery if you have a history of moderate to severe cervical changes or cervical cancer. If you have no history of problems, you do not need to be screened. Our OBGYNs advise and treat each individual patient.
Our physicians dedicate themselves to preventing and treating cervical cancer. Following current pap smear recommendations is an important step. Contact us to request an appointment today.