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How often should woman over the age of 65 get a Pap smear?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
A woman 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. Once Pap smear screening is stopped, it should not be resumed even if she has a new sexual partner.

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 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 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. 
Purvi K. Shah, MD
Internal Medicine
Currently, we recommend that we stop screening for cervical cancer at age 65, if all of the prior Pap smears have been normal. However, if you are over 65 and have a new sexual partner or resumed sexual activity, we recommend continuation of screening.

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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.