The Pelvic Exam
What Tests Are Taken During the Pelvic Exam?
A sample of cells may be taken as part of regular test called a Pap smear, or Pap test, to screen for cervical cancer or cells that look like they might lead to cancer. The sample is placed in a solution and sent to a lab where it is examined. Tests also may be taken to screen for sexually transmitted diseases.
How Often Should I Get a Pelvic Exam?
A Pap smear is recommended starting when women reach 21 years of age. Women ages 21-65 should have routine screening with Pap test every three years.
Combining a Pap test with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test can safely extend the interval between cervical cancer screenings from three years to five years in many women between the ages of 30-65, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Also according to USPSTF guidelines, HPV testing is not recommended for women in their 20s, because people in that age group can have HPV infections that resolve without treatment.
Women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they’ve had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests within the previous 10 years, according to the guidelines. But women who have a history of a more advanced precancer diagnosis should continue to be screened for at least 20 years.