How often do you really need a Pap test?
By Buffalo Medical Group | January 16 2018 | Doctor Tips
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and BMG’s OBGYN department wants to make sure you’re informed on how to take preventative measures against cervical cancer and the importance of early detection.
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer was once the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., but over the last 40 years, the mortality rate has gone down by more than half.
The decrease in mortality is a result of an increase in the use of Pap tests (or Pap smear), which allows physicians to detect pre-cancerous cells before they have become invasive cancer cells. It’s always our goal to detect these cells before they becomes invasive, but we understand that isn’t always realistic.
There are circumstances when invasive cancer cells can be found, but with any cancer, the sooner these are found the better, so your doctor can help establish a treatment plan that’s right for you. In addition to pre-cancerous or cancerous cells, a Pap test can also identify a variety of infections.
If you have a gynecologist, then you likely have received a Pap test before, but there still can be confusion around how frequently you should be getting this test performed. There are a couple of factors that determine how often you should be getting a Pap test, the first being your age.
- If you are between ages 21 and 29, you should get a Pap test every year.
- If you are between ages 30 and 64, you should get a Pap test and human Papillomavirus (HPV) test together every 3 years.
- If you are 65 or older, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.
Other factors that determine frequency are whether you’ve had an abnormal Pap test in the past, sexual history and whether you are sexually active, and medical history. It’s important for you doctor to explain what your abnormal results mean, and discuss Pap test frequency with you.
By being educated on cervical cancer, Pap tests, and early detection, we can all play a role in continuing to reduce the cervical cancer death rate.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, or learn more about cervical cancer screenings, please contact our OBGYN Department at 716.630.1150.