A pap smear test is an important screening tool in the quest for early diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is a serious disease, but can be treated successfully when caught early.
Routine pap smears can detect not only cancer cells, but precancerous changes that can be treated before cancer develops.
The pap smear itself is simple, fairly painless, and not expensive. It involves a swab of the cervix taken during a routine gynecological examination.
When should a young woman have her first pap smear? Guidelines vary, but the American College of Gynecologists recommends that a woman have her first pap smear at age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active.
It is important to note that whether a woman is heterosexual or homosexual, it is important that she receive gynecological care.
After the initial pap smear, the American College of Gynecologists recommends annual pap smears until about age 30, after which some women may only need a pap smear every three years if the results are normal. The frequency will vary depending on the woman’s risk factors and medical history.
Women should continue to get routine gynecological care even after menopause. After age 70, and three consecutive normal pap smears, a woman’s physician may determine that she no longer needs routine pap smears.