Pap smears (or Pap tests) are an important part of every woman’s health care routine. These simple, in-office screenings are the best way to check for cervical cancer — but when should you be scheduling Pap smears? And how often do you really need them?
Detecting early signs of cervical cancer gives you your best chance at beating it. Your risk of cancer varies based on your age, health, and other factors, and our team at OB/GYN Specialists in Denton, Texas, is here to offer guidance.
Daniel McDonald, MD and Marc Wilson, MD specialize in Pap smears for women of all ages. We evaluate your health and recommend a Pap smear schedule to keep you enjoying your best health.
When to schedule Pap smears
Most women should schedule their first Pap smear around age 21, and doctors generally recommend getting a Pap smear every three years until age 65.
Beginning around age 30, you may have the option to combine Pap smears with human papillomavirus (HPV) screenings, and get both tests once every five years.
Some women benefit from more frequent Pap smears throughout life. Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wilson may recommend additional Pap smears if you have a history of:
- Abnormal Pap smear results
- Cervical cancer
- HIV infection
- Precancerous cells
- Weakened immune system
You might still need Pap smears even if you’ve had a hysterectomy. If you had your uterus removed but your cervix is still intact, Pap smears can help protect against cervical cancer. After age 65, your risk of cervical cancer may be low enough that you can stop getting Pap tests.
Why regular Pap smears are so important
Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting women. More than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, but it develops slowly and is very treatable when it’s identified early.
Pap smears are cervical cancer screenings that are done alongside your pelvic exam. When you get a Pap smear, the doctor uses a speculum to gently open your vaginal walls. He takes a small sample of cells from your cervix with a swab, then removes the speculum.
Our team sends the sample to a lab, where it’s examined for signs of cancer. Most of the time, Pap smear results come back normal and there’s nothing you need to do. But if our office contacts you with abnormal results, additional testing might be necessary.
Getting abnormal Pap smear results can be scary, but abnormal results don’t automatically mean you have cervical cancer. Depending on your situation, our team might recommend another Pap test or watchful waiting before confirming any diagnosis.
Pap smears are the best way to detect the early stages of cervical cancer, when it’s most treatable. But these screenings can also bring attention to infection, inflammation, and other gynecologic issues so you can get the treatment you need.
Pap smears protect your health, so make routine screenings a priority. To find out if it’s time for your next Pap smear, schedule an appointment at OB/GYN Specialists. Contact us online or call our office at 940-202-0566.