Did you know that routine Pap smears not only detect early signs of cancer but can catch the disease before it ever develops? But how often do you need to get a Pap smear?
Our caring team of experts at Arundel Medical Group, Inc. offers gynecology services, including Pap smears, at our office in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Read on to learn more about these tests and how often you should consider scheduling them.
Pap smears 101
A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, is a minimally-invasive procedure that checks for cervical cancer risk factors and signs of the disease. During the test, your provider collects cells from your cervix, which is located at the lower end of your uterus, using a cotton swab.
While it might feel a bit uncomfortable, it isn’t painful. Some people describe the sensation as a small pinch. The test takes less than a minute, so any discomfort will be momentary.
When to have your first Pap smear
In general, most people should start having Pap smears at age 21. We do not recommend the tests before age 21, even if you’ve been sexually active. If you’re over 21 and haven’t yet had your first Pap test, schedule one with our team as soon as you can. It’s never too late to start tending to your gynecological health.
How often are Pap smears needed?
The frequency of cervical cancer screenings will depend on your age and health history. Our team may recommend scheduling a Pap smear every three years, if your results continue to be normal, from ages 21-30. From there and until age 65, we suggest a Pap smear, testing for both cervical cancer and HPV, every five years as long as the results remain negative. Our providers at Arundel Medical Group can help determine a schedule that is best for you.
Although cervical cancer often stems from the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which spreads through anal or genital contact, you should have Pap smears starting at age 21, even if you aren’t sexually active. If you have certain risk factors for cervical cancer or have had abnormal results in the past, our team will likely recommend more frequent tests.
These risk factors include:
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol before birth
- History of smoking
- Weakened immune function
When can I stop getting Pap smears?
In particular circumstances, our team might approve or recommend no longer scheduling Pap tests. If you’ve had a total hysterectomy, for example, which includes removal of your uterus and cervix, you may no longer need them. If the hysterectomy was in response to cancer or cancer-related conditions, however, you might still need the tests.
And once you’ve reached age 65, if you’ve never had positive cervical cancer results and are not sexually active with multiple partners, you can likely discontinue Pap smears as well.
To learn more about Pap smears, call Arundel Medical Group, Inc., or request an appointment on our website.