Experts differ on when is the best time to start having Pap tests. Some experts recommend that women should start within 3 years of becoming sexually active. Others say women should wait until they are 21. Talk with your doctor about when to start having Pap tests. If you are sexually active and wait to have a Pap test, it's still a good idea to have tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free women’s preventive services, including mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits. Learn more.
Women younger than 30 should have Pap tests every 1 to 2 years, depending on what they and their doctors decide.
Women 30 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row may only need a Pap test every 3 years. Women can also have an HPV (human papillomavirus) test with their Pap tests. If the Pap and HPV tests are negative, women can have their Pap tests every 3 years. But women who are at a higher risk for cervical cell changes or cervical cancer may still need the tests more often, even if the results are normal.
Women 65 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap tests in the past 10 years may decide to stop having this test. When to stop having Pap tests is a personal choice and may depend on your past health, overall health, and your risk for cervical cell changes or cervical cancer. Talk with your doctor about whether you should stop or continue to have Pap tests. He or she can help you decide.
It's a good idea to talk with your doctor about your risk for cervical cell changes or cervical cancer. Experts agree that some women may need to be tested more often if they:
A hysterectomy is
a surgical procedure in which the entire
uterus is removed, usually including the cervix.
Occasionally the cervix may be left intact (supracervical hysterectomy). You
and your doctor can decide on the appropriate screening interval based on
your medical history.
Women without a cervix
Pap testing does not need to continue if
the cervix was removed for noncancerous reasons.
testing should continue if the cervix was removed for precancerous changes but
may be stopped after 3 normal Pap tests if you do not have any other continuing
risk factors for cell changes (dysplasia).
Regular Pap testing
should continue if the cervix was removed for cervical cancer.
Women with a cervix
Regular Pap testing should continue until
age 65 to 70 if the uterus has been removed but the cervix is still present. If
a woman is unsure whether she still has her cervix, her health professional
should do a gynecologic examination to determine whether the cervix is still