How Often Should You Get a Pap Smear Done?

Young Woman Smiling

A Pap smear, or Pap test, is an important screening method for identifying cervical cancer. A Pap smear involves the collection of cells from the cervix by your doctor. Located at the top of the vagina, the cervix is the opening to the uterus. These cells are examined in a laboratory for abnormal cells. The Pap test is usually performed during the annual physical exam for women.

An updated set of guidelines states that women can undergo fewer yearly pap tests. Research suggests there is no clear advantage to yearly Pap tests compared to less frequent tests because early-stage cervical cancer cell changes frequently take years to manifest. Consult your doctor for the best testing regimen for you.

Pap Testing Guidelines by Age

According to the American College of Gynecology, women should start Pap smear screening at age 21. Between the ages of 21-29, women whose Pap smears are normal only need it repeated every three years.

Ages 30–65 include three options. A Pap test every 3 years, human papillomavirus or HPV test every 5 years or a co-test with both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years.
For ages 65 and older, Pap tests may not be necessary after age 65 if you’ve had several consecutive normal Pap tests in the decade before you reach 65.

HPV Testing

People younger than 30 may not benefit from HPV testing. This virus is one of the most commonly transmitted diseases. The virus will typically clear on its own for most people younger than 30. It is unlikely that HPV will cause precancerous cell changes, despite early test results showing positive results.

On the other hand, the American Cancer Society guidelines say that people age 25 and up would benefit from a primary HPV test. A primary HPV test is a test for HPV only. This is different from co-testing, which is an HPV test and a Pap test together.

Women ages 30 and over should have testing for the HPV with their Pap smear. If a Pap test detects precancerous changes to cervical cells, your doctor may request a follow-up HPV test; but in most cases, co-testing is done.

You can trust the compassionate care you receive from Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates. They will treat you with respect and gentleness. Don’t put off your yearly exam, call them today.