Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Do I need a Pap test at age 75?

Q. I'm 75 years old and healthy. My doctor is still recommending annual Pap tests for me. I have no history of any problems in this area and have had normal Pap tests for years. Is this necessary at my age?

A. If you've had routine normal Pap tests up to now, you're unlikely to need further screening, as your risk for cervical cancer is very low. The three organizations that set guidelines for cervical cancer screening generally agree on this matter. The American Cancer Society recommends that Pap test screening be discontinued at age 70 in women who have had at least three normal Pap tests in the past 10 years and are not at increased risk for cervical cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force says that women at average risk for cervical cancer can stop Pap test screening at age 65. And according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women at average risk can stop screening between the ages of 65 and 70.

This guideline doesn't apply if a woman has tested positive for human papillomavirus (the sexually transmitted virus associated with cervical cancer), or has been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero, or is HIV-positive or immune-compromised or otherwise at increased risk for cervical cancer (for example, because of a past history of the disease). In any of these circumstances, a woman should work with her clinician to develop an individualized screening program.

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