Pap Smears: New Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Screening
A Pap smear, the name given to cervical cancer screening, is familiar to most women who have been to a gynecologist at least once: this is when a speculum is used to widen the vagina so a small sample of cells can be collected from the cervix. Cervical cancer screening can find changes in the cells of the cervix that lead to cancer. A Pap smear test used to be recommended for most women every year. However, the guidelines have changed for cervical cancer screening and are listed below from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
- Under 21: No Pap test or screening for HPV, regardless of sexual activity.
- 21–29: Pap test once every three years.
- 30-65: Pap test once every three years. Preferably, Pap and HPV test together, once every five years.
- Over 65: No testing at all if there is no history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2, CIN 3 or cervical cancer and if there have been either three consecutive negative Pap test results or two consecutive negative Pap/HPV co-test results within the previous 10 years, with the most recent test performed within the past five years.
- Exceptions: Women who have had a total hysterectomy (including removal of the cervix) and no history of neoplasia should stop screening. Women with a history of cervical cancer, or who are HIV-positive, immunocompromised, or were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero; may need more frequent screening.
It’s also worth reiterating that the above guidelines are for average-risk women. If you have any risk factors – including HIV, precancerous cervical lesions, family history of cervical cancer, and any others that may arise in the course of health screening and discussions – please talk with your gynecologist. Your decision to screen is based on your conversation with your doctor.
At Woodlands Medical Specialists, we file insurance for cervical cancer screening. However, if you do not fall within the new guidelines for screening, and would like to continue with your annual Pap smear testing, we have a $25 self pay rate.
If you have any questions about the new guidelines for cervical cancer screening, you may schedule an appointment with our gynecologist, Dr. Victor Hultstrand by calling (850) 696-4000 or using our online form.