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How Often Do I Need Pap Smears?

How Often Do I Need Pap Smears?

The Pap smear stands out as the primary test for identifying cervical cancer or pre-cancerous alterations in cervical cells. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of most cervical cancers, with over 79 million women and men in the United States affected, often without their knowledge.

At Healthstone Primary Care, with three Florida locations, our medical team performs Pap smears as part of your well-woman exam

According to the American Sexual Health Association, most sexually active individuals will contract an HPV infection at some point. Notably, the transmission is not limited to intercourse but includes intimate touching. This highlights the crucial role of Pap smears in early cervical cancer detection.

Starting Pap smears at 21 is recommended, regardless of early sexual activity. Cervical cancer's slow progression means that regular Pap exams before this age might not detect it. Even if technically a virgin, any intimate skin-to-skin contact poses an HPV risk, making condoms ineffective against the virus.

For those aged 21-29, a Pap smear every three years, as suggested by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), is advisable. Some within the 25-29 age group may opt for HPV testing alone, but the Pap smear remains the superior method for early cancer detection.

Upon reaching 30, there are varied options for early detection:

  1. Pap smear alone every three years
  2. Pap smear and HPV test every five years
  3. HPV test only every five years

Both tests are swift and uncomplicated, and you can undergo an HPV test concurrently with a Pap smear if preferred.

If recent tests were normal, women over 65 typically no longer require Pap smears. However, those with long-lived families or who remain sexually active may choose to test every three years for added caution.

Women at higher risk due to factors such as a history of cervical cancer, exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb, HIV/AIDS, or immunocompromised status may need more frequent screenings, as advised by their healthcare provider.

Contrary to common belief, a hysterectomy does not guarantee protection against cervical cancer. Regular screening may be recommended for up to 20 years post-surgery, especially for those with a history of cervical cancer or severe cervical cell changes.

To book your Pap smear,  contact Heatherstone Primary Care. Call the location closest to you. We have offices in Weston, Pembroke Pines, or Davie, FL, or request an appointment via the online booking tool.

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