1. Health

Cervical Cancer Screening - Annual Pap Smears May Not Be Necessary

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Updated February 01, 2010

All women should have annual Pap smears beginning at age 21, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women 21 to 29 should get a Pap every two years, then annually from ages 30 to 64.
  • Beginning cervical cancer screening through Pap smears within three years of having vaginal sexual intercourse or no later than 21 years of age. Depending on the type of Pap test utilized and the test results, cervical cancer screening should be done every one to two years until a woman reaches the age of thirty.

  • Once a woman reaches age 30, she may begin Pap smear screenings for cervical cancer every two to three years providing she has had at least three consecutive Pap smear with normal results. Some women who have other health issues such as HIV or a compromised immune system may need to have more frequent cervical cancer screenings.

  • Women who have reached age 70 and who have had at least three normal Pap smear results and no abnormal Pap smear results for the last ten years may decide to stop cervical cancer screening through Pap smear completely.

  • Women who have had a total hysterectomy do not need Pap smears unless the hysterectomy was performed for cancer or precancerous conditions. Women who have had a subtotal hysterectomy (leaving the cervix intact) need to follow the same guidelines as for other women and continue Pap smear screenings for cervical cancer until they are 70 years old.

While these new cervical cancer screening guidelines are more lenient for women who regularly have Pap smears, it's important to note that an estimated 50 percent of diagnosed cases of cervical cancer in the United States occur in women who have never had a Pap smear. Another 10 percent of diagnosed cases of cervical cancer occur in women who have not had a Pap smear in the last five years.

Remember, your best protection against future cervical cancer diagnosis and survival is to strictly adhere to your personal healthcare provider's advice about when you need to be screened for cervical cancer.

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