In the past, a pap smear, or pap test, was a routine part of an annual gynecological exam for most women. However, a recent change in guidelines has left many females confused as to when a pap is necessary for them.
A pap smear is performed during a pelvic exam. It involves a simple and quick collection of cells from the cervix, or opening of the uterus. Physicians use this sample to screen for cervical cancer. As a side note, this pap test got its name from the doctor who determined that this was the best way to detect abnormal cervical cells, Georgios Papanikolaou.
Earlier this spring, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology updated their guidelines for pap testing to include the following:
- Age Less than 21:no pap needed
- Age 21-29: pap every three years
- Age 29-65: pap AND HPV test every five years (preferred), pap alone every three years (acceptable)
- Age greater than 65: no pap required
Before you think you are completely off the hook here, it is important to know a couple of things. First, it is possible for your gynecologist to request a pap smear more than what is required in the new guidelines, especially if you have had abnormal paps in the past or are experiencing certain symptoms. In addition, just because you may not need a pap smear every year, it does NOT mean that you can skip your routine exam with your physician. Your well-check visit with your gynecologist covers far more than checking for cervical cancer. It is an important time for you to be able to discuss your menstrual cycles, sexual concerns and other problems related to women’s health.
Still not sure when you are due for a pap smear? Call North Pointe OB/GYN for an appointment. We stay at the forefront of our field and enjoy helping women achieve optimal health through all stages of life.