Why Pap Smears Are Important

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Why Pap Smears Are Important

A Pap test is a test of cells of the cervix. The cervix is the opening between the vagina and the uterus. The Pap test looks for cells that are not normal and can cause cervical cancer.

Most women ages 21 to 69 need regular Pap tests. But teenage girls and older women usually don’t need them. Here’s why:

Pap tests usually don’t help low-risk women.

Many women have a very low risk for cervical cancer.

  • Cervical cancer is rare in women younger than 21, even if they are sexually active. Abnormal cells in younger women usually return to normal without treatment.
  • Cervical cancer is rare in women over 69 who have had regular Pap tests with normal results.
  • Pap tests are not useful for women who have had their cervix removed during a hysterectomy, unless the hysterectomy was done because there were cancer or pre- cancer cells in the cervix.

So, when do I need a Pap test?

That depends on your age, your medical history, and your risks.

  • Ages 21 to 29: If you are at least 21 years of age and are sexually active you should have a Pap test every three years.
  • Ages 30 to 69: You should have the Pap test every three years.
  • Age 70 or older: You do not need any more Pap tests if your three previous tests have been normal.
  • Risk factors include pre-cancerous cells in your cervix, a history of cervical cancer, or a weak immune system. If any of these apply to you, ask your health care provider how often you need a Pap test.

Reduce your risk.

  • Use condoms. Condoms help reduce the risk of getting HPV. Men who use them are less likely to be infected and to infect their partners. However, condoms do not prevent all infections.
  • Use spermicidal gels. They also help protect against HPV.
  • If you feel you are at risk for a sexually transmitted infection, you should visit your health care provider for testing and an examination.

 

 

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