About 93% of women in the United States reported getting a pap smear at least once in their lifetimes. However, pap smears need to be routinely performed, not just once, to detect cervical cancer effectively.
At Premier Primary Care, your health is our top priority. We offer a range of women’s health services, from pap smears to well-woman exams, in our clinic in Union City, Tennessee. Our expert team put together this blog to help you understand how often you need to get a pap smear and why it’s important to get regularly tested.
What is a pap smear?
A pap smear is a simple procedure that collects cells from your cervix (the narrow, lower end of your uterus) to test for cervical cancer. It’s usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam during your annual physical or well-woman exam.
Regular pap smears can detect changes and abnormalities in your cervical cells, which may develop into cervical cancer if left untreated. By identifying early signs of cancer, you have a much higher chance of successfully beating cancer.
If you fall into these categories, you should be getting regular pap smears:
- Ages 21-65
Studies have shown that cervical cancer is sporadic in women younger than 20, which is why doctors recommend starting pap smears around age 21.
How often do you need to get a pap smear?
If you’re between the age of 21 and 65, you should be getting a pap smear every three years, provided your results show no abnormalities.
If you want to increase the time interval between your screenings and you’re between the age of 30 and 65, you can opt to do both a pap smear and HPV test every five years instead.
For anyone who falls into these risk categories, our providers may recommend coming back for more frequent screenings:
- Diagnosed with cervical cancer or have precancerous cells (found by previous pap smear)
- Exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
- HIV positive
- Weakened immune system due to chemotherapy, organ transplant, or long-term corticosteroid use
- History of smoking
Who does not need a pap smear?
If you’re over the age of 65 or had a total hysterectomy (complete surgical removal of the uterus, including the cervix), you don’t need to continue having routine pap smears.
This only applies if you were not previously diagnosed with cervical cancer or had precancerous cells detected. If that’s the case, our providers may still recommend that you come in for routine pap smears to make sure that you are cancer-free.
To schedule your pap smear or learn more about our women’s health services, call our Union City, Tennessee, office at 731-201-2786 or book online to schedule your appointment today.