The Pap Smear Demystified: What is It, When Do You Need It, How Often Do You Need It?
Most women have heard of a pap smear, but they don’t always know the ins and outs. They may know that in the past they were recommended on a yearly basis but are no longer required that often, they may believe that they aren’t necessary after menopause, or they may think that they only tell us one thing. At Rancho Wellness we can’t stress how important this test is but we want to make sure you know the facts. Read on to learn more and then call us at 909-483-7800 if you need to make an appointment.
When is the first pap smear needed?
When a woman turns 21 years old, she can do a lot of things – drink legally, head to Vegas to do some gambling, and start making appointments for pap smears. This is surprising to women who believe that a pap smear is first necessary when she becomes sexually active for the first time. The truth is that pap smears aren’t actually affected by sexual activity.
How often do women need to get pap smears?
The reason younger women don’t typically need them is because cervical cancer is extremely rare in women who are younger than 21 years old. For a woman who has an average risk of cervical cancer, and is between the ages of 21 and 29, the test is needed only every three years. If a woman has an abnormal pap during that time period, then it’s likely we’ll recommend future pap smears on a more regular basis.
For women who are between the ages of 30 and 65, a pap is typically suggested every three years as well, or you can elect to have an HPV test along with a pap smear. This is called co-screening and it drops down the frequency to once every five years.
There are good reasons not to get tested more often
Some women aren’t sure about these guidelines and wonder why they wouldn’t just have the test more frequency. The reality is that this can lead to anxiety about getting the exam, and then waiting for the testing to come back. If there’s no reason for additional risk then we strongly recommend that you follow the recommended schedule.
Some women do need the test more frequently
That said, there are certain groups of women that should visit their wellness provider for pap smears more frequently. Women who have any type of immuno-suppresive disease, who’s had an abnormal pap, had a biopsy, or has been treated for cervical dysplasia within the last three years should be tested more often. Likewise, a woman who has a positive HPV test will likely need the test more frequently.
Of course, as with any medical procedure, the best way to find out what your specific schedule should be is to contact Rancho Wellness at 909-483-7800. We are happy to put your mind and ease and offer the testing you need.