How Often Should You Get A Pap Smear?
If you see a gynecologist regularly, you are probably familiar with the term pap smear. It’s something many women know as part of a routine checkup but may be confused as to what exactly the procedure is and why it’s recommended/needed. A pap smear tests for cervical cancer by gently removing cells from your cervix (the lower tissue part of your uterus that connects it to your vagina) to check for any abnormalities. The procedure will only take a few minutes in your doctor’s office and is typically painless. It is recommended that you don’t have penetrative sexual intercourse for 24 hours before your appointment. Having sex before your visit could obscure some of the cervical cells and make it difficult for your OB/GYN to read the test results.
How often should you have a pap test? According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Mayo Clinic, women between the ages of 21 – 65 should get a pap smear once every three years. Those that have had a previous abnormal pap smear or have more at-risk factors such as a weakened immune system due to previous medical history and/or smoking should be screened more regularly.
It’s important to note that a pap smear does not scan for STIs (sexually transmitted infections). If you think you could be at risk for this notify your doctor that you will need a separate test. In many cases, women past the age of 65 or those that have had a full hysterectomy do not need pap smear testing.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women and it’s important to take all necessary precautions to prevent this with a pap smear every three years. The female body is a wonderful system, and we encourage everyone to get to know the wonderful inner-workings of your body and take control of your gynecological health. Empower yourself by gathering more pap smear information from your gynecologist!