A Pap smear is a medical test performed most often by a gynecologist who tests for cervical cancer in women. The test involves collecting cells from the cervix and performing laboratory tests to check for changes in the cells that may become cancerous in the future.
This is a very important cancer test that should be performed regularly to ensure early detection and treatment. Doctors recommend Pap smear tests for all women between the ages of 21 and 65.
How Often Should I Get a Pap Smear?
Previously, doctors recommended getting a Pap smear every year, similar to an annual checkup. Doctors didn’t know much about cervical cancer at the time and regular annual testing ensured quick diagnosis for most chances of survival. However, this is not necessarily true anymore.
Medical professionals have learned a lot about cervical cancer since then, and most recommend Pap smear tests less frequently now: every 3 years beginning at the age of 21. Testing every 3 years is considered a very safe way to ensure early detection of precancerous cells. However, in some cases, annual Pap smears may be recommended.
Abnormal Results in the Past
If you’ve had abnormal results from a previous Pap smear, your gynecologist may recommend getting a Pap smear every year to ensure early detection and treatment if necessary. Abnormal Pap smear results do not guarantee you have cervical cancer – in fact, most women who get abnormal results do not get cancer. However, testing early and often can guarantee that you detect any cancerous activity early on.
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, can cause abnormal Pap smear results because HPV infects the skin cells in the cervix. While HPV is treatable and most patients see it disappear within 2 years, it can cause Pap smear results to be abnormal. If you get abnormal Pap smear test results, your gynecologist will most likely test for HPV.
If you do have HPV, it may explain the abnormal Pap smear results – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be extra careful for a few years. Your gynecologist may recommend that you get a Pap smear every year for a few years to ensure that once the HPV has gone away, your Pap smear results have normal results once again. Generally, after a few years of normal results, your gynecologist may recommend going back to testing every 3 years.
Your Doctor’s Recommendation
While general guidelines recommend Pap smear testing every 3 years, the right recommendation for you may be different. The best person to recommend the right testing guidelines for you is your gynecologist.
Your gynecologist is qualified to detect signs of abnormalities in your system and will be able to make the right judgment call based on your medical history and previous Pap smear results. If you are unsure whether you need a Pap smear every year or every 3 years, talk to your gynecologist about your risks.
Women’s Health Screening in Syracuse
One of the key components of keeping yourself healthy is having the right medical team by your side. Visit one of our highly qualified gynecologists at University OB/GYN Associates to get your annual checkup. Our doctors are highly qualified to test and diagnose a variety of gynecological conditions, including cervical cancer.
To make an appointment, call (315) 464-5162 or request an appointment online. We look forward to caring for all of your medical needs as a woman.