How to Decide When to Stop Having Pap Smears: A Brief Guide

How to Decide When to Stop Having Pap Smears | How to Decide When to Stop Having Pap Smears: A Brief Guide | In the past, experts recommended that women visit their ob-gyn each year for a Pap smear, breast exam, and pelvic exam. It was considered preventative medicine.

A Pap smear is a test that screens you for signs of cervical cancer.

Today, though, the recommendation of how often to get Pap smears and when to stop Pap smears has changed. Part of this is thanks to healthcare providers having a better understanding of how cervical cancer develops.

While all this is true, Pap smears are still an important part of maintaining a woman’s good reproductive health. Keep reading to learn more about Pap smears, when they are needed, and when they aren’t.

Guidelines for When to Have Pap Smears

It is possible to find more info about Pap smears and when to seek care from a gynecologist here. Knowing when to have certain testing done is a must to remain healthy and avoid complications or other issues.

Women of different ages need different frequencies of Pap smears. These include:

Women from 21 to 29

Women in this age group should have Pap smears done every three years. While HPV testing can also be done for this age group, Pap smears are the better option.

Women from 30 to 65

For this age group, women have three testing options.

  1. Pap smear and HPV test every five years
  2. Pap smear every three years
  3. HPV test every five years

Usually, you can speak to your doctor to find out which one they recommend.

Women 65 and Older

Once you reach the age of 65, if you have never had abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, you no longer need Pap smears. If you have had these conditions, you can safely stop having the test performed after two or three negative tests.

Additional Testing Considerations

It’s important to note that there are some exemptions to the guidelines above. In some situations, more frequent testing will be necessary.

Some of these situations include:

  • Exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
  • Have a weak immune system
  • HIV positive
  • History of cervical cancer

Even if you have had a hysterectomy, a screening may still be required.

Is Anyone Considered Low-Risk for Cervical Cancer?

Some people are considered low risk for cervical cancer.

For example, if you are under the age of 21, the risk of developing cervical cancer is extremely low, even for sexually active women. Usually, any abnormal cells present in this age group will return to normal without treatment.

Pap smears are not beneficial if you have had your cervix removed. The only exception to this is if there were pre-cancer or cancer cells in the cervix when it was removed.

Women over the age of 69, who never had an abnormal Pap smear, don’t need ongoing tests, either.

Are Pap Smears Necessary After Menopause?

Even women who are menopausal or postmenopausal need to continue with HPV and Pap testing. Screening for cervical cancer can be discontinued when a woman reaches 65 to 70, as well.

Potential Symptoms of a Problem

Now that you are waiting three years for another Pap smear, it’s a good idea to know some of the symptoms you may be dealing with an issue.

While this is true, it’s important to note that pre-cancerous conditions in your cervix don’t usually cause many symptoms.

However, if cancer has developed in your cervix, you may begin to experience abnormal bleeding. It may start or stop in between your usual periods or could be seen after having sex.

Another symptom is abnormal vaginal discharge. Cervix cancer will not cause pain; however, this is usually the symptom of another condition you should speak to your ob-gyn about.

Potential Risks of Pap Smears

While Pap smears are relatively painless, there can be some risks. Being informed will ensure you are prepared for these.

For example, a Pap smear may be slightly uncomfortable. It can also cause minor bleeding.

The test may also show something that is abnormal but could go away alone. If your results are abnormal, they may cause anxiety.

Abnormal results may also result in having to have more Pap smears done and additional treatment that isn’t really needed.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Developing Cervical Cancer

There is no 100% effective method to prevent cervical cancer from developing. However, these tips may reduce your risk of developing this condition.

Get the HPV Vaccine

HPV – Human Papilloma Virus – is what causes cervical cancer. You can get a vaccine to prevent HPV.

There are two options, and they have both been proven safe and effective. While the vaccines are most effective for preteens, they can be administered safely until age 26.

Regular Pap Smears

With regular pap smears (discussed above), your doctor can find and treat abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.

Even if you have gotten the HPV vaccine, you still need to have regular Pap smears.

Only Have One Sexual Partner

Being monogamous means, you are only having sex with a single person. Not having sex at all is the best way to stay protected.

While this is true, only having sex with one person will reduce the likelihood of contracting HPV.

Now You Know When to Stop Pap Smears

If you have been wondering when to stop Pap smears, the information above should help you know the answer. You can also speak to your doctor, who can make recommendations based on your health and personal situation.

To find more helpful information and guides, make sure you read some of the other blogs on our site.