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How Often Should I Have a Pap Test?

A Pap test is the best way to screen for cervical cancer. Also called a Pap smear, a Pap test is a quick, in-office procedure that involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix and evaluating them in a lab for signs of cancer.

Pap tests are an essential part of your health care routine, because detecting early signs of cancer gives you the best chance at beating it. Your risk of cancer varies with age and other factors, so how often you should be getting a Pap test changes, too.

At Vibrant Woman Health Center, Patricia Nevils, MD and our team provide wellness exams and preventive screenings for women of all ages. Preventive care is the best way to maintain your health throughout life, and getting regular Pap tests is a proactive way to stay in control of your well-being.

Dr. Nevils and our team are here to make taking care of your health simpler. Follow these general guidelines for …

Scheduling Pap tests if you’re 21-30 years old

Most women should have their first Pap test around age 21. Once you start getting Pap tests, you should have one every three years until age 30.

You can combine your Pap tests with your annual pelvic exam and/or screenings for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually-transmitted disease in many teens and young adults. While it typically goes away on its own, some strains can develop into cervical cancer.

Scheduling Pap tests if you’re 30-65 years old

Beginning around age 30, you might have the option of combining your Pap test with an HPV test and getting both done every five years. 

Some risk factors, like a weakened immune system, a history of smoking, or HIV infection may mean you’ll need more frequent Pap testing throughout life.

Once you reach the age of 65, Pap tests may not be necessary anymore. Talk to Dr. Nevils about your history of Pap test results to determine if your risk of cervical cancer is low enough to discontinue routine Pap testing.

Scheduling Pap tests if you’ve had abnormal Pap test results

Most of the time, Pap test results come back normal. But if you receive abnormal Pap test results, additional testing may be necessary to determine the cause.

Note here that abnormal results don’t automatically mean you have cervical cancer. In fact, they could be triggered by minor health issues like a yeast infection or hormonal changes. 

Depending on your situation, Dr. Nevils might recommend more frequent Pap testing to monitor any changes before confirming a diagnosis.

Scheduling Pap tests if you’ve had a hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all or part of your uterus. In some hysterectomies, your cervix is also removed. If you don’t have a cervix after getting a hysterectomy, there’s no chance that you’ll develop cervical cancer and you don’t need to continue getting Pap tests.

Your health is unique, and Dr. Nevils takes your medical history, preexisting conditions, and previous Pap test results into consideration during your screening. Our team works with you to determine how often you should have Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.

Is it time to schedule your next Pap test? Give Vibrant Woman Health Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, a call at 925-257-4884 or request an appointment online. You can also send Dr. Nevils and the team a message here on our website.

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