Do You Need A Pap Test After Menopause?
A Pap is a test which looks for changes in the cells of the cervix and can diagnose cervical cancer and other potentially serious conditions. There’s no denying it’s an important tool. But do menopausal or postmenopausal women really need to continue to take these tests?
Well, the answer is maybe. Even if you are menopausal or postmenopausal, you should continue to have Pap tests – but there are exceptions.
Screening may be discontinued at 65 or 70 years of age if women have had at least three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap tests in the previous 10 years. For younger menopausal women, you should have a Pap test every three years if you have had three normal Pap test results for three years in a row, or if you have no past history of a precancerous Pap test result, no HIV infection, no weakened immune system, and no history of in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES). Note that if you have a higher risk of cancer, you may need a Pap test more often.
Pap smears can also be discontinued after a total hysterectomy (but continue to have routine pelvic exams) unless the surgery was performed for cervical pre-invasive or invasive cancer or other uterine cancers, or if you are considered to be at high risk for the other reasons named above.
The best advice? When in doubt, opt for a Pap smear. It’s your best tool to detect pre-cancerous conditions that may lead to cervical cancer. If detected early, cervical cancer can be cured.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.
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