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Current Guidelines for Pap and HPV Testing
Frequently Asked Questions of Women about Pap and HPV Testing
In my practice, women ask me if they still need to get a pap test. And my answer is different depending on many factors. Let’ start by answering some questions:
What is a Pap test?
A Pap test is a test that checks your cervix for abnormal cells.
Where is the cervix?
The lower part of the uterus (womb) is where your cervix is located. The cervix opens into the vagina. In the case of an abnormal pap test, it is extremely important to treat these cells as it can lead to cervical cancer.
How is a pap test done?
To open the path so that your doctor or nurse can see your cervix, s/he puts a speculum (medical tool) into your vagina and uses a special stick or soft brush to collect cells from the outside of your cervix. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
These tests can be uncomfortable, but they should not be painful. You will feel pressure as the speculum is placed into your vagina.
Sharzad Green, Pharm. D., is a hormone replacement specialist & pharmacist at Community Clinical Pharmacy, in Mesa, Arizona. She offers private Hormone Replacement Consultations to find a tailored solution that fits your needs. Sharzad has had the privilege of working with over 12,000 patients and providers in the Valley and around the world.
What else is checked during a pap test?
Your doctor also checks for a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a virus that can cause abnormal cervical cells and possibly lead to cervical cancer. The HPV test can tell your doctor if you have HPV and which type it is.
Can Pap tests and HPV tests be done at the same time?
Yes. That is what your doctor does (called co-testing).
Why do I need a Pap and HPV test?
A Pap test can save your life by finding cervical cancer cells early. Fortunately, the chance of successful treatment of cervical cancer is very high if it is caught early. Pap tests can also find precancer cells (abnormal cervical cells before they become cancer). Removing these precancer cells prevents cervical cancer in over 95% of cases.
Do I still need a Pap test if I am not currently sexually active?
Yes. You still need regular Pap tests even if you are not sexually active.
Do I still need a Pap test if I have received the HPV vaccine?
Yes. You still need regular Pap tests even if you have received the HPV vaccine.
Do I still need a Pap test if I have gone through menopause?
Yes. You still need regular Pap tests even if you have gone through menopause.
Do I still need a Pap test if I have had a hysterectomy?
It all depends. See answer below.*
How often should I get a Pap test?
In general, experts recommend that most 21 to 65-year-old females get Pap tests as follows:
- Women 21–29 get a Pap test every 3 years
- Women 30–65 get:
- A Pap test every 3 years, or
- An HPV test every 5 years, or
- A Pap and HPV test together (called co-testing) every 5 years
- Women older than 65 need a Pap test if they have never been tested, or if they have not been tested after age 60.
- A Pap test every 3 years, or
Who does not need to get regular Pap or HPV tests?
- If you are older than 65 and have had three normal Pap tests or two normal co-tests in a row within the last 10 years, with the most recent test being within the last 5 years, and you have been told by your doctor that you don’t need to be tested anymore
- If you have no cervix (usually after a hysterectomy) and do not have a history of cervical cancer or abnormal Pap test results
*I had a hysterectomy. Do I still need Pap and HPV tests?
- The type of hysterectomy you had. If you do not have a cervix because you had a hysterectomy (no abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer were present before surgery), you do not need Pap and HPV tests
- Your health history. If you had a hysterectomy because of abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, you should continue to get Pap and HPV tests
- If you still have a cervix (after a hysterectomy), you need regular Pap and HPV tests until you are 65 and have had three normal Pap tests or two normal co-tests in a row within the last 10 years with the last test being within 5 years.
In recent years, some doctors have been prescribing compounded green tea vaginal suppositories after an abnormal test. Your doctor may consider this approach along with using other supplements before taking standard measures to treat your abnormal Pap or HPV test.
At Community Clinical Pharmacy we care about your health and well-being. Please feel free to call us and ask to speak to me if you have any questions. Remember to always talk to your doctor or nurse before stopping regular Pap and HPV tests.
When in doubt, contact one of our knowledgeable pharmacists at Community Clinical Pharmacy. We are here to offer you solutions and assist you in making informed decisions about your health.
related topics you’d like to know more about. And, as always, stay healthy!
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