How Often Should I Have a Pap Smear?
Not sure if you really need an annual Pap smear? You're not alone. Since the recommended schedule for this important test has changed recently, many women aren't sure just how often the test is needed. Dr. Lori Sweitzer, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at LSC OB/GYN LLC in Annapolis, MD, shares some information on the new timetable.
Why do I need a Pap smear?
Pap smears are used to screen for precancerous or cancerous cells in your cervix. Thanks to this test, cancer, or precancerous conditions, can be detected in their earliest stages when they're often easier to treat.
How often should I get a Pap smear?
The recommended Pap smear frequency varies by age. If you're between 21 to 65, you will need a Pap smear every three years. If you're 30 or older and the Pap smear is done in conjunction with a human papillomavirus infection (HPV) test and the HPV test is negative, you can wait five years for your next Pap smear. Once you're 65 or older, you won't need the test if you're low risk. If your cervix was removed during a hysterectomy, you won't need a Pap smear no matter what your age.
Who should get Pap smears more often?
Some women may still need to get Pap smears more frequently. Your doctor may recommend that you have the test performed more often if:
- You have HIV.
- You were previously diagnosed with cervical cancer or had precancerous cells in the past.
- You have a weakened immune system.
- Your mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during her pregnancy.
Why did the recommendations change?
Cervical cancer takes about 20 years to develop and is preceded by a change in the cervical cells. Doctors realized that the new schedule still offered plenty of time to catch problems and could decrease unnecessary testing due to false positives.
Does this mean I can skip my annual visit to my Annapolis Ob/Gyn?
It's still important to visit your ob/gyn every year for a pelvic and breast exam, even if you don't need a yearly Pap smear. Pelvic exams help your doctor detect infections or abnormalities in your vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries.
Is it time for your next well woman visit? Call Dr. Sweitzer, your Annapolis, MD, specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at LSC OB/GYN LLC, at (410) 266-7755 to schedule an appointment.