Cervical Cancer Screening/Pap Smears

Cervical cancer screening can find changes in the cells of the cervix, that if left undiagnosed and treated can lead to cervical cancer. Screening includes a Pap smear and sometimes co-testing for the presence Human Papillomavirus (HPV). In the past, a Pap smear was recommended annually. New evidence-based guidelines recommend screening with Pap smears and/or HPV testing based on risk for developing cervical cancer.

Recommended Screening:

Age under 21 Screening PAP is not recommended
Age 21-29 Screening PAP smear every 3 years, with reflex HPV testing depending on PAP result
Age 30 – 65 Screening PAP with HPV testing every 3-5 years. OR a PAP smear alone every 3 years
Age over 65 No screening if all recent PAP smears have been normal
After Hysterectomy No screening if PAPs prior to hysterectomy were normal and HPV testing negative

Depending on your risk factors, your provider may recommend more frequent screenings. Women who have an abnormal cervical cancer screening test result, a history of cervical cancer, HIV, or a weakened immune system may need additional screening.

Screening Guidelines Have Changed:

Recent research has shown there to be no advantage to having yearly cervical cancer screening for most women. Screening more frequently does no always translate to better care. Women who have frequent or annual screening may have to undergo unnecessary procedures and treatments.

However, …

You should still plan to visit your health provider for your annual well-women exam. The screening PAP is only one part of your health assessment. So, although you may be current for your PAP, the annual health assessment identifies personal risk factors for disease and the appropriate screening to detect and manage problems early. For example, an annual clinical breast exam by your health provider is still recommended. Preventive care including age appropriate immunizations is offered to promote wellness. Counseling is offered to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Your annual well-women exam is your opportunity to ask your provider any questions or discuss health issues you may be having.

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