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A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is an important health screening for women. A gynecologist can perform Pap smears to check for the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, which is the lowest part of the uterus. These abnormal cells may later become cancerous unless treated.

Doctor preparing to write on a clipboard while the patient looks on

Do I Really Need a Pap Test?

The early stages of cervical cancer may not necessarily cause symptoms. However, detecting cancer or identifying pre-cancerous changes as early as possible is crucial for a favorable outcome. By having regularly scheduled Pap tests, you can boost your chances of detecting this deadly disease as early as possible. However, some women may not need to have Pap tests any longer. These include women who have undergone a hysterectomy to remove the cervix and uterus, provided they do not have a history of abnormal Pap smears or cervical cancer. A gynecologist may also inform a woman that she no longer needs Pap smears if she is 65 years or older, has had three normal and consecutive Pap tests, and has not had any abnormal results within the past decade.

How Often Should I Have a Pap Smear?

Your gynecologist can let you know how often you should have a Pap smear. Most women who are between 21 and 29 years old should receive a Pap test every three years. Women between 30 and 64 may have a Pap test every three years by itself or they can have a Pap test and HPV test together every five years.

Are There Any Scheduling Considerations?

Try to schedule your Pap test 10 to 20 days after you first begin your period. If your period is irregular and you begin bleeding close to your appointment date, you can reschedule your appointment with the gynecologist. To facilitate accurate test results, refrain from certain activities for two days prior to your appointment. These activities are using tampons, douching, having sex, using vaginal suppositories or creams, and using vaginal deodorant products.

Washington Surgi-Clinic continues its mission of providing safe, compassionate, and confidential women’s wellness services since our founding in 1973. Women can have a Pap smear in Washington, D.C. by appointment at our gynecology clinic. Call (202) 659-9403 or visit our website to read about our other gynecology services, including the morning after pills and HPV treatment.