When to get a pap test

When to get a pap test

Dear Dr. SerVaas,

Is there a time when one need not continue getting Pap smears? Annual tests over the past 33 years were negative, and insurance no longer pays for it. The individual is in her late 50s and not sexually active. She was treated for breast cancer nearly two years ago.

C.C.

Connellsville, Pennsylvania

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends annual Pap tests for all women who were previously treated for cancer.

Cervical cancer may occur in women who are sexually inactive or menopausal. In general, the following ACOG guidelines apply to those with no history of cancer or other risk factors:

* Annual Pap smears for women younger than 30 years old.

* Pap tests every two or three years for those age 30 or older who have had three normal Pap tests for three years in a row.

* Optional testing for women ages 65 to 70 with at least three normal Pap tests and no abnormal Pap tests in the past ten years.

Although a Pap test may not be necessary, experts recommend that women have a yearly pelvic exam. Interested readers may call the National Institutes of Health at 1-800-422-6237 for local information on free and low-cost Pap tests.

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