Current guidelines recommend a yearly exam with your doctor.
During this exam your doctor can talk to you about the screening tests recommended for you based on your age and medical history.
Typical screening exams include cervical cancer screening (also known as a pap smear), breast cancer screening (mammogram), colon cancer screening (colonoscopy), and testing for diabetes and high cholesterol. Other things you can talk to your doctor about include birth control options, preconception counseling, or sexual problems or concerns. If you are worried about a possible sexually transmitted infection, you can have testing at any time.
New updates show that an annual pap smear is no longer necessary to detect cervical cancer according to The American Collage if Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
In the recent past, women were advised to visit their ob-gyn every year for a Pap test, as well as a pelvic exam and breast exam. The Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is a screening test for cervical cancer.
Fast forward to today, and our advice has changed. Women should still visit their ob-gyn each year, and I’ll outline why that’s so important below. But we no longer advise women to have an annual Pap test. A big reason for the change: We now better understand the way cervical cancer develops over time—we know it takes many years to develop—so we’ve expanded the time between screenings.
Here’s a quick summary of ACOG guidelines for cervical cancer screening (read this FAQ for the full details):
- Women age 21 to 29 should have a Pap test alone every 3 years. HPV testing alone can be considered for women who are 25 to 29, but Pap tests are preferred.
- Women age 30 to 65 have three options for testing. They can have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. They can have a Pap test alone every 3 years. Or they can have HPV testing alone every 5 years.
- After age 65, you can stop having cervical cancer screenings if you have never had abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, and you’ve had two or three negative screening tests in a row, depending on the type of test.
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