Had Your Pap Smear? What you need to know...

The rules are changing about what age it is recommended for women to start getting Pap screenings (the test which screens for HPV infection, sometimes called an “Annual Exam”). Prior to 2010, experts suggested that young women should be tested 3 years after first sexual intercourse or by 21- whichever comes first. Now they are recommending that women should hold off on their first Pap screening until 21,with few exceptions. Why? The answer is in the statistics. HPV, human papilloma virus, is very common among sexually active teens and 90% of these cases of infection will clear up on their own due to the body’s immune system. Also, it is recommended that women receive a Pap Screening every 2 years instead of annually.

What is the worry about HPV anyway? human papilloma virus has many strands, a few of which can lead to cervical cancer if left to progress. The Pap screening tests for cervical cancer, precancerous changes, and HPV infection.

What does this all mean? To sum it up, Pap screenings are no longer recommended for women before the age of 21 unless you have a prior condition that compromises your immune system (HIV, AIDS, organ transplants, etc.) Women are also encouraged to have a Pap screening every 2 years opposed to annually. Instead of getting the Pap screening, it is recommended that you visit your gynecologist to discuss your options. This will create a comfortable environment for you in the future when it is time for that daunting exam.

For more information on this change in guidelines, visit: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?abbr=daily2_&page=NewsArticle&id=25306&security=1201&news_iv_ctrl=-1

Guidelines reviewed and summarized by: Stephanie Dunbar & Naomi Ingram - Peer Health Educators