How often should I get a Pap smear?

Woman with OBGYN- Pap smear

The world of womanhood can be a confusing place. We often hear conflicting advice on when and what we should be doing for our health. And on top of that, when researching, much of the medical jargon can be difficult to understand. One particular women’s issue I have been seeing more about is how often women should be getting a Pap smear and when women should start.

I reached out to John W. Martin III, MD, Medical director of the Women’s Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix to get information on when and how often women should get a Pap smear.

He let me know that there is growing evidence of overuse of Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing. An advisory board of specialists and experts reviewed the health data and established new recommendations about who should receive Pap and/or HPV test and how frequently they should be getting them.


Pap Smear HPV Test

Under 21 (Regardless of sexual activity)




Every 3 years

Only if pap results report “Atypical Squamous Cells of Unknown Significance” (ASCUS)

30-65 Every 5 years

Every 5 years

* The guidelines are also valid for women who have been vaccinated against HPV.

* Pap every 3 years is acceptable for 30-65 age range if results are negative.


Screenings should stop once a woman reaches the age of 66 and has not been treated for moderate dysplasia (abnormal cells on the cervix) and the last two screenings were negative. Women who have had a hysterectomy do not need a Pap or HPV testing unless they have been treated for dysplasia.

While it is a huge relief knowing that I no longer have to dread an annual pap smear, it is important to note that all women should receive an annual female wellness exam to evaluate a woman’s overall health!

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