Do you know when you’re due for your next annual exam? Your next Pap smear? Is your appointment already scheduled?
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When to screen for cervical cancer
Recommendations for how most women should be screened for cervical cancer have changed in the past year. For some women, this means getting a Pap screening every 2-5 years instead of every year.
But there are exceptions to every rule! Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer or have other health concerns may still require yearly screening. Contact your PCP or gynecologist to make sure you know which screening schedule you should follow.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Early onset of sexual activity
- Multiple sexual partners (2x risk with 2 partners, 3x risk with 6 or more partners)
- Sex without condoms
- Personal history of sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia, herpes, high-risk HPV
- Low immune system function (e.g. HIV)
- Family history of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer of the female reproductive system. The average age at time of diagnosis is 48. For detailed information about cervical cancer, check out this information from the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and Planned Parenthood.
An annual exam covers much more than just a Pap screening!
Though Pap screening recommendations have changed, recommendations for annual exams and check-ups haven’t. Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, you should still have an annual screening with to evaluate other aspects of your reproductive health, such as the size of your uterus and ovaries, and to discuss other important preventative medicine topics related to hormones & reproductive health, like bone density.