A very common question is: When and how often should I get a pap smear? 

Pap smears screen for abnormal cells on the cervix which could lead to cervical cancer.  They do not screen for other types of cancer like uterine or ovarian cancer.  The vast majority of cervical cancer is caused by changes to the cells on the cervix caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  HPV is very common in the general population, and the majority of individuals will come in contact with HPV at some point in their lives.  Most HPV infections, especially in younger patients and nonsmokers, will go away on their own.  It is also important to know that most cases of cervical cancer develop over a long period of time (>5-8 years from when you are told you have moderate or severe abnormal cells).

Current Pap Smear Recommends are:

  • Younger than age 21: No screening
  • Ages 21 - 29: Pap smears every 3 years
  • Ages 30 - 65: Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years
  • Older than age 65: can discontinue screening if adequate pap smear screening performed and no moderate or severe dysplasia
  • Women with Hysterectomy: no further paps if cervix removed and no history of moderate or severe dysplasia prior to hysterectomy

Discuss any questions or concerns regarding Pap Smear Screening with your Physician. Remember that yearly examination are still recommended by our practice as breast, uterine, and ovarian screening (with physical exam) may still be necessary.