Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do PapSmears Hurt?"
I'm an 18 year old college student, afraid to have my first well-woman's check up. But I just believe its time...
Good for you! Just the fact that you are aware of Pap smears and are taking an active role in your health is extremely valuable. These tests save thousands of lives annually, and should be encouraged for every young woman as part of her routine health. But before we answer the question, let's talk about current recommendations.
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The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (one of the groups of physicians that provides guidelines to physicians and their patients) recently updated their guidelines in 2009. The new update calls for all women (who have a cervix) over the age of 21 to be tested every other year until they are 30, and then to continue every 2-3 years after that, provided that all of your tests have been unremarkable. You should continue on this schedule until either you have an abnormal test result (in which case you would go more frequently), or reach the age of 65, at which point you can discuss with your physician if it is ok for you to stop having them. It is important to note that some physician groups recommend a Pap smear for women 3 years after they become sexually active, or when women become 21, whichever occurs first. So getting back to your question: it might not be time for you to have a Pap smear yet based on the current guidelines. BUT, if you are feeling like it might be time for you, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. They would be happy to discuss it with you, and would welcome your concern in your health. And, to answer quickly: Pap smears can be uncomfortable for some, but they shouldn't hurt.
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