Pap TestThe Pap test also called a Pap smear, checks for changes in the cells of your cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens into the vagina (birth canal). The Pap test can tell if you have an infection, abnormal (unhealthy) cervical cells, or cervical cancer.
Why Do I Need a Pap Test?– A Pap test can save your life. It can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer. If caught early, the chance of curing cervical cancer is very high. Pap tests also can find infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells. Treatment can prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.
– Getting regular Pap tests is the best thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer. In fact, regular Pap tests have led to a major decline in the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths.
Do all Women Need a Pap Test?– It is important for all women to have Pap tests, along with pelvic exams, as part of their routine health care. You need a Pap test if you are 21 years or older.
– Women who have gone through menopause (when a woman’s periods stop) still need regular Pap tests. Women ages 65 and older can talk to their doctor about stopping after at least 3 normal Pap tests and no abnormal results in the last 10 years.
How Often Do I Need A Pap Test?It depends on your age and health history. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you. Most women can follow these guidelines:
Starting at age 21, have a Pap test every 2 years.– If you are 30 years old and older and have had 3 normal Pap tests for 3 years in a row, talk to your doctor about spacing out Pap tests to every 3 years.
– If you are over 65 years old, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.
Ask your doctor about more frequent testing if:
– You have a weakened immune system because of organ transplant, chemotherapy, or steroid use
– Your mother was exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant
– You are HIV-positive
– Women who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are at a higher risk of cervical cancer and other cervical diseases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all HIV-positive women get an initial Pap test, and get re-tested 6 months later. If both Pap tests are normal, then these women can get yearly Pap tests in the future.