A Pap smear is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina, and is in conjunction with a pelvic exam. Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a higher chance at a cure. It can detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer. When women are older than age 30, we also will test for human papillomavirus (HPV) — a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer.
You and your doctor can decide when it’s time for you to begin Pap testing and how often you should have the test.
In general, doctors recommend beginning Pap testing at age 21.
Doctors generally recommend repeating Pap testing every one to three years for women ages 21 to 65.
If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend more-frequent Pap smears, regardless of your age. These risk factors include:
-A diagnosis of cervical cancer or a Pap smear that showed precancerous cells
-Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
-Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic corticosteroid use
-A history of smoking
-You and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of Pap smears and decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors.
Who can consider stopping Pap smears?
In certain situations, a woman and her doctor may decide to end Pap testing, such as:
-After a total hysterectomy. After a total hysterectomy — surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix for a noncancerous condition.
-Older age. Doctors generally agree that women can consider stopping routine Pap testing at age 65 if their previous tests for cervical cancer have been negative.
-Discuss your options with your doctor, and together you can decide what’s best for you based on your risk factors. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, your doctor may recommend continuing Pap testing.
An intrauterine device (IUD) should prevent pregnancy for 3 to 10 years, depending on the type you have. Once it expires, your doctor will need to take it out. You can have the IUD removed before the expiration date if you want to get pregnant. It is a quick in-clinic procedure. Don’t try to remove it yourself. You don’t need to do anything to prepare. Removing an IUD is usually less painful than putting it in.
Get your IUD removed:
-It has expired. Your doctor should be able to tell you how long the type that you have is supposed to last.
-You want to get pregnant.
-You’ve had side effects like heavy bleeding, severe headaches, or pain.
-You have a sexually transmitted infection.
-Your IUD has moved out of your uterus or has broken.
-You got pregnant while the IUD was in place.