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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bonura

Why Do I Need a Pap Test?


Gynecologists perform a Pap test during your annual visit to screen for cervical cancer. Last year in the United States there were 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,200 women died from this disease.

The Pap test checks for abnormal cells (Cytology) and may also be used to screen for the presence of the HPV virus, which causes cervical cancer. When the Pap test checks for both, it is called a Cotest.


There are three acceptable ways to screen you for cervical cancer:

1. Cytology Test Alone

2. Cytology + HPV Screen

3. HPV Screen Alone

Most Medical Societies recommend:

  • Age 21 to 29 years of age: Cytology alone every 3 years if results are normal

  • Age 30 to 65 years of age:

    • Cytology alone every 3 years OR

    • Cytology + HPV Screen every 5 years OR

    • HPV Screen alone every 5 years

  • Age 65 and Over: If you have had three consecutive negative Cytology tests, or two negative Cytology and HPV Tests (Cotests) within the previous 10 years with the most recent test within five years, we can stop performing your Pap Test.

If the Pap Test (Cytology) is abnormal or if you test positive for High-Risk HPV Virus, more frequent testing may be performed. In some cases, your gynecologist may look at your cervix under a microscope (Colposcopy) and/or perform a cervical biopsy.


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