You heard it right although Pap smear remains the mainstay to diagnose cervical cancer as early as it is but the truth is not all women need it. If you’ve ever had a Pap smear, you know that the experience of lying on a cold examining bed half-naked can be very unpleasant. With your genital area exposed, a doctor inserts an instrument called a speculum in your vagina and scrapes off some cells from the cervix. These cells are sent to the laboratory to screen for the earliest sign of cervical cancer, the third leading cause of death in women. In the October 2011 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that women younger than 20 and older than 65 do not need a Pap smear.
A review of multiple studies and trials showed that there is no improvement in detecting cervical cancer for the mentioned age groups. In addition, the incidence of cancer in women under 20 is rare.
For women 65 years and older, suggests that they may do away with their regular pap smear once they've had three successive normal tests and/or no abnormal findings within the past 10 years.
Women within the 20 to 65 age group still have to visit the doctor regularly.
Recommendations vary on the frequency of having a Pap smear.
KPCMI recommends screening every three years for asymptomatic, average-risk women.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says women aged 21 to 29 should get a Pap smear every two years.
For those 30 years and above, it’s every three years but only if they meet the following criteria:
1. Three consecutive normal Pap smears
2. No history of abnormal smears in the past 10 years (i.e. Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia or CIN 2 and/or 3)
3. No HIV infection
4. Not on chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive treatment
5. No exposure to the hormone diethylstilbestrol
If a woman finds herself saying “yes” to at least one of the risk factors listed above, she would have to undergo screening every year.
Meanwhile among those who don’t need a Pap smear are:
1. Women who have undergone a total hysterectomy for any benign gynecologic condition like fibroids or myoma.
2. Women who have never had any sexual activity—not with a partner of either sex or by masturbating with the help of an inanimate sexual device or toy.
3. Similarly, children, because they have had no sexual encounters, do not need a Pap smear. They have a very low risk of acquiring the HPV infection which is the precursor for cervical cancer 99 percent of the time.
But then, whatever age group you belong, it's always a good idea to see your doctor at least once a year for health safetiness.