Harvard Women's Health Watch

Goodbye to yearly pap smears for some women over 65

If you're over 65, you may no longer need to see your clinician for a Pap smear every year. In March, both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society released new recommendations on cervical cancer screening. The groups say women over 65 can stop having this annual screening, provided they've had at least three negative Pap smears or two negative human papillomavirus (HPV) tests in the last 10 years and they aren't at high risk for cervical cancer. Women who've had their cervix removed with a hysterectomy also don't need to be screened. Up to age 65, women should have either a Pap smear every three years, or a combination of a Pap smear and HPV test every five years. As with any health guidelines, it's important to discuss cervical cancer screening with your doctor, taking into account your unique risks for the disease. If you're having unprotected sex with a new partner, also talk to your doctor about getting tested for HPV, as well as for other sexually transmitted diseases.

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