Starting at age 25, or 3 years after becoming sexually active (whichever is later), it’s important to begin having regular Pap tests.
Remember that being sexually active doesn’t mean only intercourse. It refers to any skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, including touching, oral sex or intercourse with a partner of any sex.
So for example:
If you’re 17 and are already sexually active, you don’t need to start having Pap tests until you’re 25.
If you’re not sexually active until 25, you don’t need to start having Pap tests until you’re 28.
Once you’ve started having Pap tests, you should continue having them even after you’ve been through menopause and until you’re at least 69 years old.
Some women may feel they don’t need Pap tests. But you should still have regular Pap tests even if:
- You feel healthy and have no symptoms of cervical cancer
- You’re no longer sexually active
- You’ve only had 1 sexual partner
- You’re in a same-sex relationship
- You’ve been through menopause
- You have no family history of cervical cancer
- You’ve had the HPV vaccine
- You’ve had a hysterectomy and still have your cervix*
- You’ve had cervical cancer in the past
*If you’ve had a hysterectomy, speak to your healthcare provider about whether you still need to be screened.
No matter what, if you’ve ever been sexually active, and haven’t had a Pap test, it’s never too late to start.
How often to have a Pap test
Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, here are some guidelines:
After your first Pap test, plan to have a Pap test once every 3 years. Screening every year provides very little extra protection compared to having a Pap test every 3 years. Having too many screens can lead to a diagnosis of cell changes in the cervix that would likely go away on their own. This results in follow-up testing that isn’t needed.
After 70, you can stop having Pap tests if:
Your last 3 tests, done within the past 10 years, were normal
You haven’t had any serious abnormal changes in the past
You had an HPV reflex test (link to HPV reflex testing under further testing) result that was negative
If you experience any changes between Pap tests, such as bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or after menopause, be sure to tell your healthcare provider right away.
Add resource – “Do I really need a Pap test” Brochure https://screeningforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Brochure-Do-I-Really-Need-a-Pap-Test-Plain-Language_Aug-20-2019.pdf