A Pap test or Pap smear is a simple test that checks the health of your cervix. It looks for cell changes that can signal future cervical cancers.
You should begin having annual Pap smears at age 21.
Pap smears over 30
Pap smears should be part of your yearly routine from age 21 on. However, the CDC points out that — depending on your results — you might get different advice from your doctor as you get older.
If you are 30 years old, you might not need a Pap smear every year. Instead, you might get an HVP (human papillomavirus) test each year and have Pap smears less often.
If you are 65, you might not need to continue receiving Pap tests. This will depend on your history, your results, and your doctor’s judgment.
In each case, the timing of your Pap tests depends on your results. If you have had normal results for several years in a row, you are in a different position from someone who has had results suggesting a cervical precancer.
Women who have had a complete hysterectomy and no longer have a cervix do not need Pap smears.
How will you know?
The default is an annual Pap smear. Plan on having a Pap test every year. If you need a different schedule, your gynecologist or primary care physician will let you know.
When you go for your yearly well-woman visit, feel free to ask about the best schedule for Pap smears — for you.