How often do you have to get a Pap smear?
[.highlighted] Q: Dear Teal, [.highlighted] I have heard different timelines from friends. How often should you get a pap smear?
A: First, a quick note on Pap smears. For decades, a Pap smear was the best way to test for cervical cancer. Then, with the evidence that HPV causes more than 90% of cervical cancers, the HPV test was introduced alongside the Pap smear.
Now, there are three ways to test for cervical cancer: a Pap smear, an HPV test, and a co-test, which includes both a Pap smear and HPV test.
You’ll notice each of these tests mentioned in the guidelines below.
Here is the most current screening schedule for cervical cancer, according to the leading expert organizations.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Recommends a Pap test every three years for women ages 21-29. For women over 30 years old, either a Pap test every three years, primary HPV testing alone every five years, or co-testing (Pap + HPV testing) every five years.
- American Cancer Society (ACS): For women over the age of 25, the ACS recommends one of the following methods: primary HPV testing every five years (preferred), co-testing every five years, OR a Pap test every three years.
If you receive an abnormal result, this timeline may be adjusted and should be discussed with your provider.