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After age 65, doctors generally recommend that you can stop having Pap smears if all of the following criteria are met:
- Your last two Pap smears were normal.
- One of these last Pap smears was in the last five years.
- You have no history of precancerous changes.
Obviously, these are fairly general guidelines, and you need to have a discussion with your health care provider. A woman with a history of cervical cancer or with cervical precancer is going to have a different screening regimen than a woman with a history of normal Pap smears.
According to the guidelines set forth by the American Cancer Society (ACS), women who are over the age of 65 and have had regular Pap smear screenings with normal results do not need to be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy (uterus and cervix removed) and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer do not need to be screened with pap smears.
Women who have a history of abnormal pap screenings or other gynecologic concerns should speak with their health care provider about the best options for them.
A woman over 30 years old, who has had normal pap smears and negative HPV tests, should continue to have pap smears every 5 years. She may stop having pap smears at age 65.
If a woman has had abnormal pap smears or is HPV positive, or has high risk conditions such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure or HIV positive, she will need pap smears or other testing as determined in discussion with her health care provider.
The woman who is no longer having periods because she had a hysterectomy for reasons other than cancer no longer needs to have pap smears.
This is the consortium agreement from the expert panels at the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, the American Society for Clinical Pathology and the United States Preventative Services Task Force released in 2012.
The guidelines about how often pap smears should be done and when pap smears can stop have been changing rapidly in the last decade. This is because of the explosion of information about the virus HPV that is largely, if not exclusively, responsible for changes in the cells of the cervix, or abnormal pap smears.
Finally, the Pap smear is a test about the health of the cervix only. The frequency of pap smears doesn't change a woman's need to take care of herself by having regular gynecological and breast examinations or discussions with her health care provider about her healthy lifestyle.
If you are 70 years or over and have had two normal Pap smears in the last five years, you do not have to keep having Pap smears, unless you wish to do so. Women who are over 70 years who have never had a Pap smear, or those who request a Pap smear, of course could have a pap smear.
Remember that, with the advent of HPV testing that goes along with the papsmear test, women over the age of 30 need only to have a pap with HPV every 3 years, if both of negative.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.