Many women (and doctors) are confused about when they should have their first pap smear, how often they should have one and when they can stop getting them.
The confusion, in large part, is due to evolving recommendations by those organizations trying to make sure this cancer is found and treated early; additionally, we are learning more about this virus all the time.
The current recommendation states that a woman does not need her first pap smear until she is 21 years old.
It does not have to be done before starting birth control, after having had intercourse or before going to college. After turning 30, there is another test that may be ordered as well – a HPV specific test.
Most importantly, a pap smear is only one aspect of an annual exam.
While you may not need a pap test every year, a gynecologist or your family physician should conduct a thorough exam every year to ensure the inside and outside of the vagina are normal and to examine the uterus and ovaries.
Women ages 21-29 need a pap test every 3 years
Women older than 30 need a pap test plus an HPV specific test every 5￼years; or a pap test every 3 years (some insurance companies won’t yet pay for the HPV test).
Women older than 65 can stop having the pap test done (not the annual exam) if you have had a regular pap test (as recommended above), have had 3 normal tests in a row AND have not had an abnormal pap in the past 10 years.
Women who have had a hysterectomy, they can stop having the pap test (not the annual exam) if the hysterectomy was done for reasons other than for cervical cancer AND if the cervix was removed at that time.
Women who have had the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) – pap tests are still recommended based on age (as outline above).The vaccine may reduce the risk of 70% of cervical cancers, but does not eliminate the risk completely.
Do You Need To Schedule Your Annual Exam?
Please give us a call at 719-442-0808 to schedule an appointment at either our Colorado Springs or Monument office.