What you should know about the current Pap smear guidelines
What’s up with these new Pap smear guidelines? Wondering if you need to have the test once a year, once every five years or never again? Worry no more. Our experienced ObGyns have all the information you need to understand the current guidelines.
Explaining the current Pap smear guidelines
The current Pap smear guidelines mean that you probably will not need a Pap test at each annual wellness appointment. Most women only need cervical cancer screening every three to five years, depending on their age and risk factors.
Co-testing replaced the annual Pap test in 2012. Co-testing means that our doctors perform a test for HPV and the Pap test. The HPV test checks for common types of human papillomavirus (HPV). These viruses cause most cases of cervical cancer. The current guidelines also recommend a Pap test to determine whether abnormal cells are present in the cervix.
How often do you need cervical cancer screening?
Our doctors follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Pap smear guidelines listed below. These recommendations apply to most women, but you should always talk to your ObGyn about your needs and how often you should come in for testing.
- Women younger than 21 years old do not need screening.
- Patients ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap smear (no HPV test) every three years.
- Women ages 30 to 65 have three options. (1) They can do co-testing, meaning an HPV test and a Pap test every five years. (2) They can get a Pap test every three years. (3) They can have an HPV test every five years. You should discuss these options with your doctor.
- Patients 65 years and older no longer need screening if they don’t have a history of cervical changes. They also don’t need screening if they have had either three negative Pap test results in a row or two negative co-test results in a row within the past 10 years. The most recent test should have been within the past five years.
It is always best to talk to our experienced doctors about the testing options that are best for you. The most critical tool in the fight against cervical cancer is early detection, so screening is still essential, even if it doesn’t happen every year. For more information, contact us.