Also known as a Pap test or Pap smear, a Pap smear test is a routine procedure for all women who regularly go to a gynecologist. It checks the cervix and the lower part of the uterus, for any and all abnormal cell changes. Some cell changes that could be detected have potential to lead to cervical cancer, so it is crucial for all women to go for regular testing. Early detection of cervical cancer can make treatment quicker, easier, and more effective instead of leaving the abnormal cells to develop and go untreated. Pap smear tests are important, but when is the right time to get one? There are a few different factors to consider for receiving a Pap smear test, so here are some that every woman should know.
Age is most certainly a factor when it comes to the frequency of your Pap smear tests. For example, women under the age of 21 do not need to get regular Pap smear tests, but a woman between the ages of 21 and 29 should get one every 3 years. Women ages 30 to 65 should get a Pap test done in conjunction with an HPV test, an STD that can cause cervical cancer, every 5 years. The general rule of thumb is a Pap test should be done at least once every 3 years. A woman over the age of 65 on the other hand typically do not need to get a Pap smear test done any longer if their last 3 tests have come back normal. Cervical cancer typically takes 10 to 20 years to develop, so it’s not necessary to get a test done every year in these scenarios.
A woman with an average medical history should stick with the norm of getting a regular Pap smear test done every 3 years depending on their age and what their doctor says. When a patient has variation in their medical history, however, that can alter the frequency of a required Pap smear test greatly. Women who have had a hysterectomy for any reason other than cancer-related complications have no need for Pap smear tests. Individuals who have received a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer, or any other cancer, should get a Pap smear test done every year until they receive 3 normal screenings in a row. Weakened immune systems and being HIV positive are also additional reasons to receive the exam.
During your pregnancy, getting a Pap smear test is usually the last thing on your mind, but it’s still important if you’re within a certain timeframe. If you are 24 weeks pregnant or less, it is perfectly fine to receive a regular Pap smear. After the sixth month mark, however, a test could prove to be very uncomfortable or even painful, therefore doctors do not recommend the examination. You should wait 12 weeks before receiving a Pap test after giving birth. This is because the level and quality of hormones around the cervix before the 12 week mark could cause an unreliable test and even a false-negative.
When Was Your Last Pap Smear Test?
If you realized that you’re overdue for a Pap smear test, we at Anthony C. Quartell, M.D. and Associates are here for you. If you’ve already gotten your Pap smear test done and it came back as abnormal, we will be there with you every step of the way. Your health and happiness are our primary goals and regular Pap smear tests are the first step towards a care-free life. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and if you have any questions or concerns about the procedure itself or about our women’s health expertise, we’d be happy to help!