“You don’t need a pap smear this year.” Hearing this from your gynecologist might trigger thoughts of jubilation, or for some, anxiety from not having the yearly pap that they’ve had for the last 20 years. You might think, what’s the point, then? If my doctor isn’t doing a pap smear, then I don’t need to schedule an appointment for next year. If you are the person who has only known yearly pap smears, you might think that your doctor has forgotten the cornerstone of gynecology.
Well, hang on to your calendars and don’t write off your doctors!
There have been a lot of changes in the recommendations for cervical cancer screening over the last several years, and now is a good time to review them.
Changes to Cervical Cancer Screening Recommendations
First, let’s begin with the basics. A pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer, and it is recommended that screening begin at age 21. Screening can then be done every 3 years until age 30. From ages 30-65, screening can be up to every 5 years. Women who are over 65 or have had a hysterectomy may not need any further screening. Screening will change if you have had an abnormal pap smear, so talk to your doctor to see what screening frequency is right for you.
For those of you who are ready to skip the annual visit to the gynecologist because your pap smear isn’t due this year – wait just a minute! Your annual exam is much more than a pap smear. At your annual, you will have a clinical breast exam, pelvic exam, and review preventative health issues appropriate for your age and medical history. (Remember – a pap smear is NOT a pelvic exam, but can be done DURING a pelvic exam.)
So keep scheduling your annual visits, and talk to your doctor about what screening schedule is right for you.
About Susan Boenau Almquist
Susan Boenau Almquist, MD, is an obstetrician and gynecologist. She received her bachelor of science from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., and earned a doctor of medicine degree from the Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, W.Va. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology from the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, she obtained postgraduate training as a surgical resident of the Ethicon Institute, as well as in da Vinci minimally invasive robotic surgery and cystoscopy. Dr. Almquist is a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dr. Almquist provides high-quality medical care for a woman throughout the course of her life. In addition to offering prenatal and postnatal care, Dr. Almquist offers comprehensive gynecological services, including pap smears, annual physicals, management of ongoing medical conditions and wellness screenings.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Almquist call her office at (757) 483-4335!