How Often Do I Need a Pap Smear?

How Often Do I Need a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear is a test for cervical cancer, one of the most common types of cancer affecting women. Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer-related death for women, but these days, Pap smears detect cancer early, so you have your best chance at beating it.

A Pap smear is a quick procedure in the doctor’s office. We take a small sample of cells from your cervix and test them for cancer. 

But your risk of cervical cancer varies based on your age, health, and other factors, so you may not know if you’re getting the right screenings when you need them.

At ObGyne Birth Center for Natural Deliveries, our medical team, led by board-certified OB/GYN Bola Sogade, MD, provides comprehensive gynecology care and Pap smears for women of all ages. If you’re not sure how often you really need to get Pap smears, you’ve come to the right place.

When to schedule Pap smears

Pap smears are an important part of every woman’s health care routine. Regular Pap smears increase the chances that we can detect cancer in the early stages, when it’s most treatable.

Your risk of cervical cancer varies depending on your age and other factors. As your health evolves, how often you should get Pap smears changes too. In general, we recommend the following guidelines:

If you’re 21-30 years old

You should have your first Pap smear around age 21. Once you start getting Pap smears, plan to get one every three years until age 30. Many women choose to combine their Pap smears with their annual pelvic exams.

Talk to our team about combining your Pap smear with human papillomavirus (HPV) screening. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young adults. It typically goes away on its own, but some strains can develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.

If you're 30-65 years old

Around age 30, you may start getting Pap smears once every five years. Talk to our team about combining your Pap smear with HPV testing if you haven’t already.

Some women may need more frequent Pap smears than others. Having a weakened immune system, an HIV infection, or a history of smoking could increase your risk of cervical cancer. More frequent Pap smears can help protect your health.

After age 65, you might not need to continue getting Pap smears. We review your past Pap smear results to determine if your risk of cervical cancer is low enough that you don’t need screenings anymore.

If you’ve had a hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is surgery to remove your uterus. Sometimes, doctors remove other parts of the female reproductive system too.

If your cervix was removed during your hysterectomy, there’s no chance you’ll develop cervical cancer, so you don’t need to continue Pap smears. If you had a hysterectomy but you still have your cervix, you should continue to get Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. 

What to do if Pap smear results are abnormal

When you get a Pap smear, we take a sample of cells from your cervix and send the cell sample to a lab. The lab checks for signs of precancer or cancer, and we share the results with you.

Most Pap smear results come back normal, which means there’s no sign that anything is wrong. But abnormal Pap smear results are possible. Abnormal results don’t automatically mean you have cervical cancer, but expect to return to our office for additional testing.

Abnormal results can be triggered by something minor, such as hormonal changes or a yeast infection. To determine the cause, we may recommend a follow-up Pap smear to monitor any changes before we reach a diagnosis.

Every woman’s health care needs are unique, and we take a personalized approach to gynecology care at ObGyne Birth Center for Natural Deliveries. We review your medical history, test results, and preexisting conditions to determine how often you need Pap smears.

Schedule your next Pap smear by calling our Forsyth, Georgia, office at 478-772-3780 or book an appointment online now.

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