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How often should I have Pap smears after menopause?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

A woman who is no longer having menstrual periods, and has had normal Pap tests and negative HPV tests, should continue to have a Pap test every 5 years. She may stop having Pap tests at age 65.

If a woman has had abnormal Pap tests or is HPV positive, or has high risk conditions such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure or HIV positive, she will need a Pap test 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 tests.

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 tests should be done 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 test is about the health of the cervix only. The frequency of pap tests 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. 

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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.