Midwife Matters

Pregnancy preparations, women's health, and care options

What Happened to Paps Every Year?

on March 15, 2013

Many of us entered our adult women years being told how important it was to get a Pap  every year.  But that science has changed and we now know much more about screening for cervical cancer.

The purpose of a Pap is to identify any changes to the cells of the cervix that may lead to cancer of the cervix.  A Pap does not diagnose sexually transmitted infections, uterine fibroids, ovarian problems, etc.  It is primary for the diagnosis of cervical cancer.

It is now understood that HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the major cause of cervical cancer.  It is a virus with many “types”.  Kind of like there are many types of trees. The virus types that are more concerning have been labeled “High Risk HPV”.  In fact, there are more than 100 “types” and of those, 8 are linked to being High Risk.  Some are more of a nuisance and not a threat to cervical health.

After extensive research of cervical cancer and testing, the following has been determined to be the safest schedule for cervical testing:

No Pap before age 21.

Almost all younger individuals will have the HPV virus in their body.  For the vast majority of individuals the body will identify that virus and will do a self immunity process. This will clear the virus from the individual.

Pap every 3 years for women who have normal Paps and are between the ages of 21 and 65.

At 65 some women no longer need a Pap.

Your provider will clarify this for you.

Also women who have had a complete hysterectomy:  the cervix and uterus have both been removed, also no longer need a Pap.

If your Pap is not normal, your provider will make a plan for follow up that may include a colposcopy or just a repeat Pap in one year.  This is all based on the results from the pathologist..

Next to come on the blog:  Then what happens at an “annual visit”????


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