Pap Tests Not for All Women

Published Online: Thursday, September 1, 2005

The American Cancer Society has issued new guidelines that suggest certain groups of women do not have to get a Pap test for cervical cancer as part of their annual checkups. All women should begin cervical cancer screenings ~3 years after they become sexually active, but no later than 21 years of age. Screening should be done every year after that until age 30. After 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap test results in a row can safely have the test done every 2 to 3 years. Women aged 70 and older who have had 3 or more normal Pap test results, and had no abnormal results in the past 10 years, can choose to stop the testing altogether. Women who have had total hysterectomies, which include removal of the uterus and cervix, can also forgo the annual test, unless the surgery was performed for cervical cancer or precancer. Women who have weakened immune systems, or a history of cervical cancer, or were exposed to diethylstilbestrol before birth, even if they belong to the other categories, should still get the annual Pap test.

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