What are Pap smears?
Pap smears, or Pap tests, are procedures that use a small brush or spatula to gently remove cells from the cervix. Once removed and collected, the cells are checked under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. Pap smears can also identify other health conditions, including infections and inflammation. This procedure is often done at the same time as a pelvic exam, and may also be done at the same time as a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. Most women between the ages of 21 and 65 need to get Pap tests or a Pap test and HPV test together.
Do I need a Pap and HPV test?
When a Pap and HPV test are done at the same time, it is known as co-testing. Co-testing is very common and can save lives, if cervical cancer cells are found early enough. Pap tests can find abnormal cervical cancer cells before they become cancer and an HPV test can give your doctor more information about the cells in your cervix. For instance, if a Pap smear shows abnormal cervical cells, the HPV test can show whether you have a type of HPV that causes cervical cancer.
How often should I schedule a Pap smear?
Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should get Pap smears as part of their routine health care. Even if you are not currently sexually active, have gone through menopause, or got the HPV vaccine, you should still get regular Pap tests. We recommend:
- Women 21-29: schedule a Pap smear every 3 years
- Women 30-65: schedule a Pap smear every 3 years, an HPV test every 5 years, or co-testing every 5 years
- Women over 65: schedule a Pap smear if you’ve never been tested or if you have not been tested after the age of 60
You do not need to schedule regular Pap or HPV tests if you are older than 65 and you’ve had three normal Pap tests or two normal co-tests in a row within the last 10 years. Women who do not have a cervix and women who do not have a history of cervical cancer or abnormal Pap test results can also stop receiving tests. In general, always talk to your doctor or nurse before stopping regular Pap and HPV tests.
When will I get my results?
It usually takes 1-3 week to get Pap smear results. Once the results come in, we will give you a call or schedule a follow-up appointment to go over them. More often than not, the test results come back normal. If abnormal cells are found, we will discuss the next steps with you.
Request a Pap smear in the San Fernando Valley
If you live in the San Fernando Valley or the surrounding area, schedule a Pap smear at Premier Women’s Health Associates. Our friendly, compassionate staff will help you improve your overall health and wellness, and help you stay ahead of gynecologic cancers. To set up an appointment, request one online or give us a call at (818) 346-5000.