In years past, it was recommended for women to visit their OBGYN every year for a pap smear, as well as a pelvic exam and a breast exam. The pap smear is a screening test for cervical screening. Recently, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has updated those recommendations.
Women should still visit their OBGYN office at least once a year, but they no longer recommend that women receive a pap smear annually. Cervical Cancer Research has taught physicians how to better understand the disease and how it develops, allowing them to increase the amount of time between these screenings. There is also an additional screening test type available now, the HPV test.
Cervical cells are tested in both the pap smear and HPV test, but the cells are tested for abnormalities with a pap smear and are tested for strains of HPV with an HPV test.
What you “Need to Know” for the new ACOG guidelines:
- Women age 21 to 29 should have a pap smear alone every three years. HPV testing alone can be considered for women 25 to 29 years, but pap smears are preferred.
- Women age 30 to 65 have three options for cervical screening- both a pap smear and an HPV test every five years, a pap smear alone every three years, or an HPV test alone every five years.
- At age 65, women can stop having cervical screenings if they have never had abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, and if they have had two or three negative screenings in a row, depending on the screening type.
- Some women may still need to receive screening tests after a hysterectomy, please consult with your OBGYN for recommendations.
- Women should also continue to have screenings even if they have had the HPV vaccine, as the vaccine does not protect against every type of HPV.
Your OBGYN may recommend more frequent screening tools if you have a history of cervical cancer, are HPV positive, or have a weakened immune system. These guidelines should also only be followed by women with no prior abnormal results on a screening. Closer follow up is typically needed after abnormal pap smears.
With the new guidelines, it’s important that women still continue to see their OBGYN every year, at least once a year. This allows your doctor to examine your health, discuss any concerns you may have, and to complete a breast and pelvic exam. Regular health care is important to maintain your overall health.
For more information about the new ACOG guidelines or cervical cancer, talk with your OBGYN or view FAQs here. To schedule an appointment with an AnMed Health OBGYN office, please call 864.512.3748.