When to Get a Pap Smear: Advice for Women Over 30
For millions of women, a Pap smear is a regular part of their annual checkups. It’s an important test because it can detect cervical cancer at its earliest, and most treatable, stage.
But the Pap smear is also the source of many questions and even some confusion. These include when to get a Pap smear, and for how long.
A lot of when you should be tested depends upon your age and your health history. If you have had abnormal Pap smears in the past or have been previously treated for cervical cancer or precancerous changes, we’ll want to test you more often. However, this protocol changes depending upon your age.
You may be wondering ‘how often do I need a Pap smear?’ especially if you are over 30. In this article, we’ll explore the answers you need.
How Often Do I Need a Pap Smear?
Generally—if you have had no precancerous changes and you have not had an abnormal Pap smear—we recommend that women from age 21 to 65 get a Pap test every three years. If you are over 65 years old, talk to us about whether you should stop having Pap tests.
When to Get a Pap Smear: Who Is at Greater Risk for Developing Cervical Cancer?
You may also need Pap smears more often if you’re at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Factors that raise your risk include:
- Having HPV
- Having a weakened immune system, which may be caused by diseases such as diabetes or HIV. Cancer treatment can also reduce your natural immunity.
You can read more about the risk factors for cervical cancer at the website for the American Cancer Society.
Do I Need a Pap Test if I’ve Had a Hysterectomy?
The answer is: It depends.
If your cervix was removed, then you do not have to have a Pap test or an HPV test. However, if your uterus was removed because you had precancerous cells or you’ve had abnormal Pap smears in the past, then we may suggest continued testing.
You should also continue to have Pap smears if you had a hysterectomy but still have a cervix. However, this type of hysterectomy is rarely performed.
If you have any concerns about when or how often you should have a Pap test, please contact us.
Should I Get an HPV Test?
HPV is the most common STD in the United States. This group of viruses can put you at greater risk for several types of cancers, including cervical cancer.
We recommend that women ages 30 through 65 have a regular HPV test, especially if you have had an abnormal Pap smear.
We don’t recommend having HPV tests if you’re younger than 30 and have had normal Pap smears. This is because cervical cancer at that age is very rare.
You can have a screening for HPV at the same time you have your Pap test.
How Often Should I Have an HPV Test?
We recommend that if you’re 30 to 65 years old, you should have an HPV test every 3 years.
If you’re over age 65, we’ll speak with you about whether or not it’s appropriate to continue to have HPV tests.
We Tailor Healthcare Treatment to Meet Your Needs
We know you’ve had several questions about when to get a Pap smear. These tests are very important because cervical cancer, when detected early, has a higher survival rate. One of the most effective means of battling cervical cancer is to detect it before it fully develops. HPV can place you at higher risk for developing cervical cancer, which is why we recommend that you also be tested for HPV when you get your Pap test.
Still wondering when to get a Pap smear? Or are you past due for your Pap test? Don’t wait. Contact us today for an appointment. We also encourage you to ask us any questions you have about when you should be tested and how often. We invite you to see why we are the provider of choice for gynecologists in Raleigh.