All women benefit from Pap smears; it is the only screening test that can almost always PREVENT a cancer from developing since it tests for infections and abnormalities that if not cared for properly can lead to cervical cancer. The initial Pap smear should begin at two-year intervals beginning at age 21.
How Often Should Women Over 30 Have a Pap Smear?
In addition to annual routine gynecology visits, Pap smears with co-testing for High-Risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is performed at three to five-year intervals. This is because newer studies have shown that the risk of cervical cancer within three to five years is nearly 0%, if patients have both a negative Pap result and HPV test.
These guidelines only apply to those who are considered low risk for cervical cancer. Patients who have a personal history of abnormal Pap test results, a history of HPV or cervical dysplasia, a history of exposure to the drug DES, or who are immunocompromised should be tested more frequently. Ask your gynecologist for their personal recommendation based on your risk.
Which Screening Exams Do I Need After 30?
The Pap smear is not the only routine screening exam you should consider and plan for. During an annual gynecological exam, your physician will check for issues like fibroids, ovarian masses such as cysts, or the cause of abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain. They will also check on your contraception as applicable. These exams should be completed annually.
In addition to your annual pelvic exam, you should complete a breast exam with your physician each year. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend more frequent exams or tests such as mammograms.
These annual tests are an important part of your regular well-woman’s visit with your gynecologist. During this appointment, you can discuss issues like preventing or achieving pregnancy, STD/STI prevention and testing, irregularities or concerns regarding your menstrual cycle, and more. Even if you do not need a Pap smear or HPV test, it is still important to see your gynecologist annually.
Schedule an Appointment
To learn more about Pap smears, HPV testing, and other women’s health considerations, schedule an appointment with our expert OB/GYNs in New York, NY. To make your first appointment, call Carnegie Women’s Health at (315) 628-7063 or contact us online.