The American Cancer Society cervical cancer screening guidelines for this are dependent on many factors: age, risk factors, choice of screening test and screening history. Let’s break it down by age.
21. Women at average risk should begin screening at 21 years of age (or 3 years after first vaginal intercourse, regardless if they had the HPV vaccines). Then yearly screening with routine pap or every other year with the liquid-based pap until age 30. Your doctor will choose either the conventional pap or the liquid-based pap depending on preference. As the patient you’ll notice no difference in technique–it’s just a different type of specimen for the lab (a slide or a specimen container).
30. After 30 women who have had three consecutively normal screening paps may choose to be screened every two to three years with conventional or liquid based pap or every 3 years with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid based pap. HPV testing may be done as the human papillomavirus may make the cells on the cervix more likely to change to cancer. Many women with HPV infection will not develop changes on their cervix. HPV infection is most common in persons who have had sexual intercourse, so new partners introduce the ability to pick up a new strain of the HPV infection.
70. Screening can continue in women who still have their cervix until age 70. (Women with hysterectomies most often have the cervix removed and do not need repeat paps unless the uterus was taken out due to cancer). Paps can also be stopped if they have been normal in the previous 10 years and 3 consecutive paps have been normal.
I encourage my female patients to come in for an annual preventive health exam. Some years this will include a pap and some not. This is a time to review blood pressure, vaccine needs, skin-cancer screening, breast exam and the like. . .