A Pap test can find precancerous
cells of the cervix before they become cancer. Having regular Pap tests gives you a
better chance of preventing cancer. In fact, most cases of cervical cancer are found in
women who have not had regular or any screening tests.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that all women should get regular Pap tests starting at age 21. The ACS recommendations say that:
Women between ages 21 and 29 should get a Pap test done every 3 years.
Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (co-testing) every 5 years or just a Pap test every 3 years.
Women older than 65 who have had regular screening with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Once screening is stopped, it should not be started again.
Women who have an increased risk for cervical cancer because of a weak immune system or other risk factors may need screening more often. Talk with your healthcare provider about screening.
A woman who has had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious precancer should not be screened.
A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should follow the screening advice for her age group.