Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pap smears: How often to get them

Over the past ten years recommendations regarding the Pap smear screening test for cervical cancer have changed dramatically.  While we formerly started doing them at 18 years old and continued annually until death, we now start at 21 (or within 3 years of first intercourse).  The advent of the test for high risk HPVvirus types that is now done along with the Pap has revolutionized the frequency with which we do them.  If a woman is NOT a carrier for one or more of the high risk virus types, she may only need Paps every 3 years until the age of 65, and not at all thereafter.  If new sexual partners are introduced, we need to rescreen for HPV.  Gardisil vaccination can significantly reduce but not eliminate the chance of acquiring an HPV virus via sexual intercourse.

Annual gynecologic exams are still recommended even when Paps are not required, which can be performed by either an ObGyn or other provider of women's healthcare.

Abnormal Paps or those with HPV positive results require more intensive monitoring that your doctor will review with you in detail if necessary.

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