Pap smear is a safe way for screening cervical cancer. However, a Pap smear isn’t foolproof. It’s possible to receive false-negative results — meaning that the test indicates no abnormality, even though you do have abnormal cells. Generally, doctors recommend repeating the Pap test after every 3 years for women between 21 years to 65 years. Women who are 30 years or older than 30 can consider the Pap testing every 5 years and also can combine the procedure with testing for HPV.
When do you definitely need a Pap Smear Test?
If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more-frequent Pap smears, regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
Weak immune system due to chemotherapy, organ transplant or chronic corticosteroid use.
You and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of Pap smears and decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors.
How is a Pap Smear Test Done?
When you have a Pap test, you’ll be asked to lie back on the examination table with your knees up. You’ll place your feet in stirrups located on each side of the table. You’ll need to scoot your bottom to the end of the table.
Your doctor will place a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina to hold it open. They’ll then use a swab to lightly scrape off some of the cells and mucus on your cervix. Most women don’t experience pain during the test but may feel a slight pinching or pressure.
Doctors generally agree that women can consider stopping routine Pap testing at age 65 if their previous tests for cervical cancer have been negative.
Be open to your doctor:
Discuss your options with your doctor and together you can decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, your doctor may recommend continuing Pap testing.