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Do You Really Need That Pap?

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pap smear

Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorA new study from the CDC says too many women in America are having a pap smear when they don’t need one — especially women who have had a hysterectomy for reasons of than cancer.

The study shows 60 percent of women who have had their uterus removed still go see their doctor for an “annual” that includes a pap.

Now why is this unnecessary? Well, a pap smear is a sampling of cells scraped from the cervix to look for changes in those cells that could turn cancerous.

Since the cervix is the bottom part of the uterus, you don’t have one when your uterus is removed by hysterectomy — so there really is nothing to take a sample from.

(One point, if you’ve had cancer of the cervix or uterus, and that’s your reason for the hysterectomy, it may be appropriate to scrape some cells at the back of the vagina where the cervix used to be — but once again, that’s not the case for the majority of women who have a hysterectomy.)

How about other women?

The general rule of thumb, which you can discuss with your doctor, is the following:

- No pap smear before age 21

- A pap smear every three years between the ages of 20-29 if the first pap(s) are normal.

- After age 30 and up to age 65, a pap every five years if you’ve had an HPV test (which looks for the virus that is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer.)

Your doctor may recommend another schedule of tests, but these are some generally accepted guidelines that you can ask about.

Another thought — just because you don’t need to be in the stirrups for a pap doesn’t mean you can avoid your doctor all together. You still need BP checks, cholesterol screens, breast exams, health advice, etc etc. on a regular basis. You simply may not need that pap.

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