Cervical cancer is a common cancer type that affects women worldwide. It is a slow-growing cancer that usually develops from abnormal cells on the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. The good news is that cervical cancer can be prevented if detected early. Pap smear screening is the most effective way to detect early cervical cancer. But how often should a woman get a pap smear? The answer depends on a few things, so let’s review the test’s guidelines, so you can determine the ideal pap screen frequency for you.
About a Pap Smear
During a pap smear, also called a pap test, cells from the cervix are collected with a small brush or spatula and examined under a microscope. While the test is screening for cervical cancer, it can also find problems that may lead to cervical cancer, such as inflammation or an infection.
Guidelines on Pap Smear Screening
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should begin getting pap smears at age 21.
Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get it every three years; those between 30 and 65 should get it every three years, or a Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years. Women over 65 who have had regular screenings with healthy results may stop screening.
It is worth noting that these guidelines are for women with an average risk of cervical cancer. Women with a history of cervical cancer, precancerous cells or a weakened immune system may need to be screened more often. Talking to your doctor about your personal risk factors and screening schedule is essential.
Reasons Behind Pap Smear Screening Guidelines
The Pap smear screening guidelines are based on several factors, including the following:
- Risk of Cervical Cancer: Cervical cancer is more prevalent in women in their 20s and 30s. By screening every three years, doctors can detect abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
- Effectiveness of the Test: The pap smear is a highly effective screening tool for cervical cancer. However, over-screening can lead to unnecessary procedures, such as biopsies, which can be painful and carry risks.
- Potential Harms of Over-Screening: Over-screening can lead to anxiety, additional testing and unnecessary treatment. By following the guidelines, doctors can strike a balance between detecting cancer early and avoiding unnecessary harm.
Establish a Pap Screen Screening Schedule
Do not put it off if you are due for a pap smear. Early detection is crucial in preventing cervical cancer. Rapid Immediate Care offers pap smears as part of their women’s health services. Contact Rapid Immediate Care to schedule a consultation and discuss your screening schedule.
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