The pap test is a useful screening test that has been around for many years. Current guidelines from the CDC suggest that it should be first performed in women when they turn 21, or after becoming sexually active — whichever comes first.
When to Get a Pap Smear
Specifically, the screening recommendations for pap test are as follows:
Women between the ages of 21 to 29 should have a pap test every three years, regardless of their sexual activity or other risk factors.
Women between the ages of 30 to 65 should have an HPV co-test, which includes a pap test and an HPV test. The other alternative is for these women to have the pap test every 3 years.
When Not to Get a Pap Smear
The pap test is not recommended for women younger than 21 years. Screening is also not recommended for women over the age of 65 provided their three prior consecutive screening tests have shown negative cytology results or two consecutive HPV tests have been clear within the last ten years. Screening is also not required for women if their cervix has been removed.
It is important to note that these screening recommendations are not applicable on women who have had a prior diagnosis of high-grade precancerous lesion or cervical cancer; exposure to diethylstilbestrol (synthetic estrogen), or who are immunocompromised. Women should always consult with their healthcare provider to determine the best schedule for their pap tests.