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"How often should I have a PAP smear?"


I am 26 and have had them annually. Now they say every two years. Which is it?


Then answer to your question depends on a combination of your doctor's personal preference and the number of normal pap smears you have had in a row. Most physicians follow the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommendations. The gist of these recommendations is that women should start having yearly pap smears at the age of 21 or 3 years after their first sexual encounter, whichever comes first.

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From 21 years of age on, women should be screened every year until they have 3 consecutive years of normal pap smears. After that, then the frequency of screening can be spread out to every other year or every 3 years. In the mean time if you have a new sexual partner, your doctor may decide to go back to the once per year screening schedule. This is where the doctor's preference comes in to play. I will say that most women that I screen I do annually throughout most of their 20s. However, your doctor is probably acting on string of normal tests you have had over the past several years and is not worried about you enough to screen yearly. If you have had an abnormal pap in the last few years, then this decrease in your screening frequency may be inappropriate. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your OBGYN or primary care physician (whoever you go to for your annual exams) and discuss the reason for this change in frequency.

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