Pap smears are a routine health screening for women that checks for abnormal cells on the cervix, the lowermost part of your uterus. Early detection of these cells can help in the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.
Doctors recommend women age 21-65 get regular Pap tests, generally every three years. However, certain conditions or situations may require more frequent testing.
The team at Daniel S. Kushner, MD, in White Plains and Queens, New York, is dedicated to ensuring optimal health for our patients. We take a personalized approach to your care, so while the general guidelines above are helpful, individual health factors may mean you require a different screening schedule.
Here, we explore some different reasons you might need more frequent Pap smears and how we can help you decide.
1. You’ve had abnormal Pap smear results
If previous Pap test results came back showing abnormal cells, your provider might recommend more frequent testing going forward. Abnormal cells can range from being mildly unusual to precancerous.
Depending on the degree of abnormality, follow-up testing might be required in a year or even sooner. Talk to Dr. Kushner for his personalized recommendations for your Pap smear frequency.
2. You have a compromised immune system
Women with weakened immune systems, due to conditions like HIV or medications after an organ transplant, or who are otherwise immunocompromised, are more susceptible to persistent HPV infections, which are a major cause of cervical cancer.
In addition, being immunocompromised also means any cellular abnormalities on your cervix might progress more rapidly than they would in someone with a fully functioning immune system. If you have a compromised immune system for any reason, more frequent Pap smears can help monitor any changes in your cervical cells.
3. You’ve been treated for cervical cancer or precancer
If you've had cervical cancer or precancer treatments in the past, it's crucial to get regular Pap tests. Even after successful treatment, abnormal cells can reappear, necessitating more vigilant screening.
4. You’ve tested positive for HPV
Human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted infection and a significant risk factor for cervical cancer. If you're HPV positive, especially with a high-risk strain, more frequent Pap smears are key in monitoring your cervical health.
5. You’re a smoker
Smoking increases your risk of cervical cancer. This is because tobacco byproducts can damage the DNA of cervical cells and contribute to the development of cervical cancer.
If you smoke, be sure to tell your providers and ask about the frequency of your routine Pap tests to ensure you get the best protection possible.
6. You were exposed to diethylstilbestrol
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of estrogen prescribed between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. If your mother took DES while pregnant with you, your risk for a rare type of cancer of the cervix and vagina increases. Regular Pap smears are an important way your provider can monitor your health.
Get personalized screening recommendations
Every woman's health is unique. While general guidelines are a great starting point, your personal history, lifestyle, and health conditions can influence how often you need a Pap smear.
For this reason, we recommend having an open conversation with your provider about your health risks and getting personalized Pap test recommendations. If you’re uncertain about when your next Pap smear should be, prioritize your cervical health and reach out as soon as possible.
You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Kushner online or over the phone at one of our New York locations.