Say goodbye to annual Pap smears
Every year since I’ve turned 18 I’ve had a Papanicolaou test, also known as a Pap smear, to screen for cervical cancer. And every year it’s the same story. The cold, uncomfortable test takes less than two minutes, and then I’m sent out of the doctor’s office and asked to make an appointment for the following year.
Our recent post on the regularity of physicals got me wondering how often it’s suggested that females get a Pap smear. According to my family doctor, Dr. Marilyn Lange, women should get a Pap smear annually.
“If you’re having multiple partners, then every year,” says Dr. Lange. “If you’re in a stable relationship, then every two years. That’s my opinion.”
However, while Dr. Lange is in favor of women getting a screening every one or two years depending on their sexual activity, updated reports are challenging the long-held notion of annual Pap smears. Recent and similar reports made by both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend that the regularity of the screenings one get correlates with age and risk factor.
Here are the guidelines:
- Under 21: No Pap smear necessary, regardless of sexual activity.
- 21-29: Pap smear every three years.
- 30-65: Pap smear every three years, or a Pap smear and HPV test together every five years.
- Over 65: No screening if there is no previous history of cervical cancer.